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Statement by Ambassador Bob Rae, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Pledging Conference

June 23, 2022 – Trusteeship Council Chamber

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I appreciate the opportunity to address the group.

I would like to extend my thanks on behalf of the Government of Canada to the President of the General Assembly for convening this conference, and to the Secretary-General and UNRWA Commissioner-General for their comments to open the discussion. We hear your message loud and clear that the financial strains on UNRWA have become existential.

I`ve had the opportunity to discuss this with the Commissioner-General.

Canada has been among the top 10 donors to UNRWA in recent years, and we have been pleased to support the Agency’s mandate through a 3-year, $90 million commitment from 2020 through 2022. We also provided additional funding for the agency as part of our global COVID-19 response, and as part of Canada’s response to the May 2021 violence.

Our current 3-year commitment to UNRWA is part of Canada’s effort to provide predictable, multi-year funding in line with previous requests from the Agency. We encourage other donors, including those from the region, to similarly commit to longer-term funding with an aim to stabilize the Agency’s financial situation.

I have every reason to believe, Mr. Secretary-General, that a renewal for 3 years starting in 2023 will take place.

We place great importance on UNRWA’s ability to uphold UN values and humanitarian principles, including the principle of neutrality. As such, part of our support for UNRWA includes specific support to that end. We welcome the gains that have been achieved in 2021, as noted in last year’s UNGA resolution on Assistance to Palestinian Refugees, and applaud the efforts at increasing staff awareness and ensuring compliance with humanitarian principles. We hope that this commitment will continue to be reflected in this year’s resolution, which renews UNRWA’s mandate for the coming period.

At a time of increasing global instability, this Conference is welcome, as Canada recognizes that UNRWA’s operations are crucial not just to meeting the needs of Palestinian refugees with quality services, but also to contributing to stability in the region. Canada is deeply concerned by the potential impact on UNRWA’s operations, on staff and on beneficiaries of the recurrent funding shortfall. Furthermore, we have to say, Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is exacerbating food insecurity across the globe, with rates of food insecurity increasing in each of UNRWA’s fields of operation.

UNRWA is operating in a number of complex environments, and the strains of conflict, COVID, and increasing food insecurity will make it even more so. Less complex to understand, however, is that in the absence of significant progress toward a comprehensive, just and lasting peace – based on the frameworks set out by the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly on many, many occasions -  our collective support for UNRWA’s services remains critically important for Palestinian refugees to live with hope and dignity. In particular, I want to say that all of us heard very clearly the words of the Secretary-General this morning, when he asked us to reflect on the human tragedy that is the situation of the refugees living in these camps.

Thank you very much.

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