Statment by Walid Maalouf
Alternate Representative of the US to the 58th GA of the UN

U.N. General Assembly, Fourth Committee
New York, NY
Thursday, October 30, 2003

By Walid Maalouf, Senior Adviser, on Agenda Item 83 : United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East , in the Fourth Committee, on October 30, 2003

Mr. Chairman,

The United States, through its substantial financial contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency , has demonstrated its enduring support for humanitarian relief efforts for Palestinian refugees. In the last year, the United States committed $88 million to the regular budget, and $31 million toward the 2002 emergency appeal. We continue to be UNRWA's largest single contributor to both the regular budget and emergency appeals. We support UNRWA's mandate and believe that its programs are a force for stability in the region.

We are pleased to note that UNRWA's latest budget for 2004-2005 was cited by the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions as a model for other UN agencies. We commend UNRWA for its efforts to continue necessary management reform, and deliver services effectively, despite the deterioration of the situation on the ground. At the same time, the need for more financial support is urgent. We encourage other countries to increase their contributions to this worthwhile organization so that it may fully address the needs of the Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.

Mr. Chairman,

In our view, General Assembly resolutions are most effective when adopted by consensus. We have been deeply troubled that there has not been greater consensus on UNRWA resolutions in previous years. As the largest single UNRWA donor, we want to support a General Assembly resolution related to the humanitarian assistance provided by UNRWA to Palestinian refugees. The United States has not supported some of the resolutions under this agenda item because we believe they go beyond purely humanitarian concerns and contain language that would prejudge final status negotiations.

Streamlining Fourth Committee resolutions should be a goal for those who seek revitalization of the UN General Assembly and more focused international attention on the financial requirements of UNRWA and assistance needs of Palestinian refugees. During plenary debate on UN reform, the United States called on the General Assembly to expedite the clustering of items - biennializing and triennializing items where possible. The First and Second committees have moved in this direction, and we believe it is time for the Fourth committee to do so as well. An argument could be made for triennializing the UNRWA agenda item - since the 56 th General Assembly already extended the organization's mandate until June 30, 2005. But we believe the Fourth Committee must continue to discuss the UNRWA agenda item each year, at least while UNRWA's finances remain precarious and until there is a just settlement of the refugee problem.

We seek your support in consolidating critical elements pertaining to UNRWA's humanitarian mandate. It is our hope that a consolidated resolution can be adopted by consensus, and we look forward to continuing our discussion of this proposal with our Palestinian colleagues in the days to come.

Mr. Chairman,

We believe our initiative is a win-win proposal: a win for the international community, a win for General Assembly reform, and a win for the Palestinian refugees that we support. We hope the General Assembly will show that there are not two sides but only a common concern in regard to UNRWA.

Fellow delegates and Members of this Committee,

I wish to reiterate that President Bush wants a two-state solution and remains ready to help the long-suffering Palestinian people.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.