On Thursday, 24 November, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, concluded a two-day visit to Ankara, during which he met with senior members of the Government of the Republic of Turkey, senior representatives from Turkish aid institutions and Turkish parliamentarians to raise awareness of the current challenges facing Palestine refugees and underline his interest in further developing relations with Turkey.
During the visit, the Commissioner-General held meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister, Veysi Kaynak, and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Ahmet Yildiz. The discussions focused on strengthening cooperation and Turkey’s upcoming role as Vice-Chair – and later Chair – of the UNRWA Advisory Commission in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Mr. Krähenbühl also met with President Serdar Cam of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA); Vice-President Hamza Tasdelen of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD); the Director-General of the Turkish Red Crescent Society, Dr. Mehmet Güllüoglu; and lawmakers from the Turkey-Palestine Friendship Group.
The Commissioner-General commended Turkey’s generosity and experience in hosting nearly 3 million refugees from Syria, highlighting in particular that “Turkey’s steadfast and long-standing support for Palestine refugees makes Turkey a valuable partner for UNRWA. I look forward to working closely with Turkey on new initiatives to further develop the quality of UNRWA’s services.” He added: “Turkey’s chairmanship of the Agency’s Advisory Commission will be an opportunity to expand our relationship”.
Turkey is the Permanent Chair of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA and was one of the four founding members of the UNRWA Advisory Commission. In recent years, Turkey has regularly contributed US$ 1.5 million to the Agency’s core education and health-care activities, as well as approximately 15,000 metric tons of flour annually for distribution in Gaza.
The UNRWA Advisory Commission is a UN General Assembly mandated body made up of 27 Member States that provides strategic guidance to the Commissioner-General to support UNRWA in its duties to provide health, education, relief, protection and emergency services to the Palestine refugee community. These services are essential to millions of Palestine refugees, whose lives are impacted daily by the effects occupation and conflict in the Middle East.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.