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India appeals to donors to enhance contributions to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

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United Nations, Nov 13 :  India has voiced concern over the financial crunch at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and appealed to nations to enhance contributions to it, saying this support will be a practical way of expressing continued solidarity with millions of Palestine refugees.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was established by the UN General Assembly seven decades ago, looks after the welfare of 5.4 million Palestine refugees.

“However, almost all of the UNRWA’s resources come from voluntarily contributions, with a limited donor base. This arrangement is fraught with uncertainties,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Mahesh Kumar said here Monday.

Kumar, speaking at the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee meeting on the UNRWA, said even core services to the Palestinian refugees, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees are susceptible to interruption. He said provision of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding would have to be made and additional resource allocation from the regular budget could be considered.

He noted that the UN Board of Auditors in their latest report pointed out that as a result of suspended contributions amounting to 400 million dollars in respect of the years 2017 and 2018, the agency’s projected overall deficit is around 450 million dollars.

“This is unsustainable and a cause of concern,” he said.

“We appeal to other traditional donors of the UNRWA to consider enhancing their contributions and non donor member states to consider contributing to the UNRWA. This is perhaps the practical way of expressing continued solidarity with Palestine refugees,” Kumar said.

The Trump administration had in August said that the US will not make additional contributions to the UNRWA.

Kumar said against the backdrop of the serious resource constraints faced by the UNRWA, India increased its annual financial contribution five-fold to the agency’s core budget, from one million dollars in 2016 to five million dollars in 2018. India is also committed to contribute five million dollars in 2019.

As part of its ongoing assistance programmes in Palestine to strengthen capacity-building efforts focused on institutions, services and training personnel, India provides 150 places for Palestinian professionals every year in its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme.

During the last five years, under an India-Palestine development partnership, 17 agreements have been signed in the fields of agriculture, health care, information technology, youth affairs, consular affairs, women’s empowerment and media.

Under those agreements, around 70 million dollars of financial support and project assistance has been offered for projects like post-2014 war reconstruction efforts in Gaza; the construction of five schools; the India-Palestine Centre of Excellence for Informational and Communication Technologies at the Al-Quds University, with a satellite centre in Ramallah.

The India-Palestine Techno-park in Ramallah; a 100-bed super specialty hospital in Bethlehem; an India Studies Chair at the Al-Quds University; the construction of the Palestine Institute of Diplomacy in Ramallah; a National Printing Press; and establishing a Heritage Centre for the Empowerment of Women and Young People.

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