First Secretary Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations
At the UN Annual Pledging Conference for UNRWA
6 DECEMBER 2004
At the outset, I would like to thank Commissioner-General Peter Hansen for his comprehensive briefing. I also would like to thank Mr. Maher Nasser, Chief of the UNRWA Liaison Office in New York, for his valuable donor-relation activities during Mr. Hansen's absence. Upon instructions from my Government, I wish to state the following.
UNRWA is the sole international organization which has been consistently providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees since 1950. Japan highly values its activities and fully understands the difficulties confronting the organization. The number of Palestinian refugees continues to grow, with approximately four million one hundred eighty-seven thousand refugees as of 30 June 2004, the majority of them enduring harsh living conditions.
With regard to the Middle East peace process, the acceptance of the Roadmap was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, with the strong support of the international community, and yet it has remained in a state of stagnation due to the chain of violence that followed its acceptance. Under such difficult circumstances, the courage and contribution of UNRWA personnel, who have at times even risked their own lives in executing their duties, deserve our respect and admiration. In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to commend Mr. Hansen for his devotion to this difficult task for the past nine years.
Allow me to mention that I share the deep sorrow of the Palestinian people on the passing of Mr. Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the PLO. I sincerely hope that they will soon overcome their sorrow, face up to the daunting challenges, and unite in order to make progress towards peace. Japan, together with the international community, strongly supports the efforts for peace undertaken by the Palestinians, and intends to extend as much assistance as possible for that purpose.
Recognizing that the peace and stability of the Middle East are closely intertwined with its own peace and prosperity, Japan has been actively engaged in the peace process. Japan views the assistance to Palestinian refugees provided through UNRWA as essential for the stability of their living conditions in the Palestinian territories, and on that basis, it has been consistently contributing to UNRWA since 1953. Despite its recent fiscal difficulties, Japan will continue to uphold this policy and to provide assistance to the maximum extent possible.
The Government of Japan is currently in the midst of implementing the budget for fiscal year 2004, and thus it is difficult at this time to pledge an exact amount for fiscal year 2005. During the present fiscal year, for the purpose of improving the living conditions of Palestinian refugees, we supported three education assistance projects and also provided four million eight hundred thirty thousand dollars for the regular budget in the educational and general areas. From the conclusion of the Oslo Accord in 1993 through 2004, Japan has contributed two hundred thirty-four million dollars in total for assistance to Palestinian refugees through UNRWA.
In fiscal year 2005, Japan intends to continue its active contribution to UNRWA. The specific figures are still under consideration within the government, but it should also be noted that the question of whether or not soundness, efficiency and transparency in the management of UNRWA are ensured will be an important factor in our final decision. We hope that UNRWA will continue its ongoing efforts for reform, giving full consideration to these issues.
In that connection, we are concerned about recent labor disputes involving local personnel, as they may invite doubts on the part of donors as to the management capabilities of UNRWA. From the viewpoint of the efficient and effective operation of UNRWA, we strongly hope that the same circumstances will not prevail again.
Thank you, Mr. President.