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Jordan, Sweden host pledging conference in support of UNRWA

Meet secures $130m in commitments; Guterres urges support for ‘lifeline' for millions of Palestinians

By Maram Kayed - Jun 23,2020 - Last updated at Jun 24,2020

AMMAN — On Tuesday, the governments of Jordan and Sweden hosted an extraordinary pledging conference for all UN member states in support of UNRWA, securing around $130 million in financial commitments.

The hosts gathered UN member states to commit to a multiyear financing, expand the donor base and develop innovative financial mechanisms to help ensure that the refugee agency can continue to play its “essential role” in the development, stability and peace of the region, according to a pre-conference statement.

The pledging conference came just days after the international community marked World Refugee Day on June 20.

Secretary General of the UN António Guterres said in an online press conference, attended by The Jordan Times, that it is his “duty to convey a message of support to the vital work of UNRWA, which is the lifeline for millions of Palestinian refugees”.

He added: “Today demonstrates a strong message of solidarity from the international community with Palestinian refugees, but I am afraid much more is needed.”

UNRWA has been facing a financial crisis since the United States, formally UNRWA’s largest single donor, suspended its 70-year partnership with the agency.

Commissioner General of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini noted that the core funding gap for 2020 stands at $400 million, adding that the countries that the agency operates in — Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza —are all facing problems of their own.

Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Peter Eriksson said that the international community “has come together to support more than five million Palestinian refugees for whom the UNRWA’s services are crucial”.

He noted the pledging conference signals “strong political support for the Palestinian cause”.

However, Eriksson said that “more support is still needed”.

During the press conference, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said: “We all stand by UNRWA as it performs noble, vital and essential services for millions of Palestinian refugees.”

“Time is sensitive and delicate, as UNRWA not only has to carry out its normal duty but it also has to deal with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic,” Safadi added.

He also noted this is “an important time to express hope for and solidarity with the Palestinian people, as an extremely dangerous decision by Israel to annex the West Bank deprives everyone in the region of the chance for a just peace”.

“Giving up on UNRWA means giving up on five million Palestinian refugees who depend on it for education, treatment, food and cash assistance,” he said.

“The Kingdom will continue to be the host for the largest number of Palestinian refugees and will continue working with the international community to find a just peace based on the two-state solution,” the foreign minister said.

Safadi reiterated that the two-state solution — which guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the pre-1967 lines — is the only means to realise a permanent peace. 

“Dismissing the two-state solution for the annexation allows for systematic apartheid in the Palestinian state,” the foreign minister said.

 

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