UN chief calls for sustainable funding for Palestine refugees agency

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UNITED NATIONS, June 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for sustainable funding for the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

The agency, officially known as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), suffers from chronic underfunding. In the last 10 years, the needs of Palestine refugees have increased, while funds have stagnated, Guterres told a UN pledging event for the agency.

UNRWA has worked hard to absorb the annual funding shortage through program efficiencies. But that alone will never solve the problem, he said.

Guterres made a twofold appeal to UN member states: to make pledges that will bring UNRWA's funding shortfall down to zero for this year and to put the agency on a durable financial footing.

The second appeal requires a long-term plan to stabilize the financing of UNRWA and together, reach sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding, he said. "Millions of Palestine refugees are counting on us to relieve their suffering and to help them build a better future. We cannot let them down."

The Ukraine crisis is catching global attention. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plight of Palestine refugees must not be sidelined, he said.

"I reiterate the importance of pursuing peace efforts to realize the vision of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. But until then, UNRWA remains vital in supporting those in need," he said.

To help Palestine refugees is a matter of justice. But it is also a barrier to the progression of extremism, terrorism, and other threats, said Guterres.

Investing in UNRWA means investing in stability for the region. It means investing in the economic and social well-being of Palestine refugees and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals. It means investing in the future through education. And it means honoring the commitment of the international community to Palestine refugees and their rights until a just and durable political solution is found, he said.

UNRWA, which currently helps some 5.6 million Palestine refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as in West Bank and Gaza, is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. Enditem

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