Roma, 15 marzo 2018
(The original text is only the one actually delivered)
I would like to welcome you all to Rome for this important and timely initiative in support of the fundamental work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
I want to express my deepest appreciation to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA Pierre Krähenbühl and to the co-chairs of this meeting: the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and Sweden.
We are also honored by the presence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, the Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah, the Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs/Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini.
As you all know, UNRWA is among the oldest Agencies of the UN, founded almost 70 years ago. Of course, we all wish that it could have fulfilled its mandate by now. But we need to take stock of a difficult reality that is still being faced, today, by 5 million Palestinian refugees, aggravated by new challenges such as the Syrian conflict.
In this demanding context, UNRWA has alleviated the pain of millions of refugees not only by providing shelter, food, and healthcare, but also by addressing long-term needs: for example, by supporting the education of a generation of young people that could have become a “lost generation”.
For UNRWA to fail is not an option. Italy is a long-standing supporter of the Agency. We commend UNRWA’s commitment to enhance its effectiveness. But we also encourage UNRWA to increase its efforts to maximize impact and cost efficiency in the implementation of its actions.
At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the current funding crisis that risks undermining the core activities of the Agency, in particular in the areas of education, health-care and emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees.
In light of these difficulties, over the last few years, Italy has been constantly increasing its voluntary contributions to UNRWA: from 10.6 million euros in 2016 to 12 million euros in 2017, which is a 13% increase.
In 2018, we are continuing on this positive trend.