Statement by H.E. Ambassador Y. Halit Çevik at the High Level Conference UNRWA

Halit Çevik 02.06.2015

Mr. Secretary General,
Mr. President,
Ms. Ashrawi (Special Representative of President Abbas)
Mr. Commissioner Stylianides,
Mr. State Secretary (Hans Dahlgren-Sweden)
Mr. Commisioner-General Krahenbühl,
Mr. Seck (Chair of CEIRPP)
Palestinian friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me at the outset extend my gratitude to the Secretary General H.E. Ban Ki-moon for organizing this Conference and thank the participants for their contributions. Our discussions today will not only be an opportunity to voice our solidarity with the Palestinians but will also represent an important occasion of reflection for the past and future efforts of UNRWA.

In this regard, as the current Chair of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the unprecedented challenges the Palestine refugees are facing today and the importance of providing sustained support to UNRWA as a contributor to stability in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sixty-five years ago UNRWA began providing relief to 700.000 displaced Palestine refugees as a temporary agency. Sixty-five years later, in the absence of a just and durable solution, UNRWA continues to operate and over 5 million Palestine refugees are still denied their rights.

During this period, the Agency has been at the forefront of efforts to promote the human development and to protect the rights, dignity and identity of the Palestine refugees. Today, the work of UNRWA has become all the more critical and difficult by the challenges faced.

The situation in Palestine remains a source of concern both for humanitarian and political reasons. The Palestine refugees continue to suffer due the ongoing illegal acts by Israel including occupation, blockades, settlement activities, forced displacement, constrained socio-economic conditions, house demolitions, excessive use of force, targeting of Holy Sites, military raids and incursions.

In addition, the Palestine refugees are among those most affected by the current turmoil in the Middle East. The humanitarian disaster currently unfolding in the Yarmouk refugee camp, which has been under the siege of the regime, is one of the latest examples of exacerbated suffering of the Palestinians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite this bitter picture, UNRWA’s laudable efforts have contributed to the prevention of a worse humanitarian scenario. Commissioner-General Krahanbühl, his team in the region and in New York deserve our highest appreciation for their tireless efforts.

Despite these, the central challenge remains to financially enable UNRWA to continue to deliver core services.

At a time when UNRWA’s role and contributions are more important than ever, the Agency is facing a dramatic funding gap. Most recently, UNRWA had to suspend cash assistance for housing for Palestine Refugees from Syria living in Lebanon.

The funding shortcoming is coupled by the operational challenges in UNRWA’s five field of operations. Tight restrictions on the movement of UNRWA staff and humanitarian goods continue to be a matter of concern. Israeli security procedures and the ongoing blockade on Gaza significantly increase the cost of operations.

Faced by these multifaceted challenges, it is our shared responsibility to support UNRWA, both politically and financially.

In this regard, we strongly encourage the international community to redouble its efforts to close the funding gap in UNRWA’s budget. We also need to look into ways of expanding the donor base of the Agency by including the contributions of non-traditional actors.

On our side, for years, Turkey has been a staunch supporter of UNRWA. Our humanitarian and development assistance continues uninterrupted. We announced our pledge to provide 1 million and 275 thousand USD in cash donation to UNRWA for 2015. I also would like to reaffirm the additional in-kind and emergency assistance of my Government to the Palestine refugees through UNRWA, whereby a new package of 15.000 tons of wheat flour for 2015 will be delivered to Gaza.

Turkey’s development assistance to Palestine during the last decade has reached 370 million USD. In addition to our 2015 official assistance of 75,6 million USD for Gaza, we have also mobilized all our agencies to address this humanitarian tragedy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The humanitarian needs are rising exponentially across the globe and the refugee crises are getting more protracted. The gap between the humanitarian and development needs versus the contributions of the international community is widening. This requires a comprehensive approach based on both humanitarian and development pillars.

We believe 65 years of UNRWA experience constitutes an important model combining these two pillars. The Agency succeeded to enhance the human capital of Palestine refugees and to preserve their identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Palestinians today are in a greater need for international assistance. While providing financial and economic aid, the international community should bear in mind that the Palestinian people will be happier and prosperous only after their freedom and independence.

Turkey remains committed to support the Palestinians in their objective of living in peace, prosperity and dignity, in a sovereign Palestinian State within pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Thank you.