Statements and Speeches
Statement by Dr. Wouter H. Zaayman, Counsellor (Political) of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations, at the Fourth Committee General Debate on the Work of the United Nations Reliefs and Work Agency: Agenda Item 493
3 November 2016
My delegation wishes to thank you for convening this important debate on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). We also take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl for his informative briefing.
My delegation associates itself with the statement delivered by the distinguish representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
For almost 50 years UNRWA has continued to provide much needed relief, education, health care, and social services to millions of Palestinian refugees. The work of UNRWA is carried out in very difficult circumstances and South Africa would like to pay tribute to the Commissioner-General and the staff of UNRWA for their hard work and dedication.
Over the last year, UNRWA has educated over 500,000 children, providing much needed primary health care consultations to over 9.1 million people and social safety net assistance to 290 000 people. This is in addition to ensuring that over 36,000 shelters are rehabilitated or constructed. This is truly a testament of the commitment of the international community and a symbol of what the organisation represents. The South African government is proud for its continued financial support to UNRWA, as reflected in our October 2016 contribution of US$ 218 812.
This notwithstanding, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in particular in Gaza, is dire. It is important that the international community remains committed in assisting the Palestinian people by providing much needed financial support to UNRWA.
For its part, South Africa will continue to support UNRWA through its financial contributions. As a member of IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), we also provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people through the IBSA Fund, and in cooperation with the Palestinian authorities and other international organizations, we support projects Nablus and in Gaza.
In Nablus, we are involved in a project once operational, will offer activities for adults with disabilities, including vocational training. In Gaza, the IBSA Fund has supported the rehabilitation of the Cultural and Hospital Centre fror the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip. By rendering this service, the hospital will be able to ensure its continous reach and scope of health care services to the population in the Gaza Strip.
The lifting of the nine year blockade in Gaza is urgently required to rejuvenate the stricken economy of Gaza which was trade-orientated and heavily dependent on aid. We are especially concerned by the effect the coastal blockade has on the fisheries industry, which has the potential for job-creation and economic growth.
South Africa fully agrees with the conclusion of the report of the Working Group on UNRWA’s financing that the humanitarian problems faced by Palestine refugees must be addressed as a shared international responsibility.
In this regard our foremost responsibility is ending the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine which has gone on for almost fifty years. Therefore as part of our shared international responsibility it is important that we encourage the parties to restart negotiations with the aim of ending this occupation. This must be done through the adoption of lasting viable negotiated peace settlement that will ensure a contiguous Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel, within internationally recognized borders. We therefore strongly support the calls for 2017 to be declared the International Year of Ending the Israeli Occupation. This in our view will assist in preserving the two-state solution and providing lasting security for Israel and Palestine.
We commend UNWRA once more for its efforts to continue delivering essential and urgent services to the Palestinian refugees under difficult circumstances.
I thank you.