Statement from Minister Eide on UNRWA

Statement from Foreign Minister Espen Barthe Eide at press conference on Norway increasing its support to UNRWA.

(As delivered)

Thank you so much, Philippe Lazzarini, for your excellent work and that of your staff. I echo everything the development minister said. We feel with you, standing and working in this incredibly dramatic situation in Gaza. But also, we should mention in the West Bank.If it wasn't for the drama in Gaza, I think the TV cameras would have been much more aware of the extreme developments that we're also seeing in the West Bank. It makes your work difficult even there, although you are still able to operate schools for instance, which are not easily doable in Gaza.

Norway stood by UNRWA when a number of countries suspended their support. UNRWA was the victim of a massive critique and a massive attack on its credibility. We were happy to see that a serious investigation took place, both from the UN itself and also from the Colonna report. I'm glad to say that we now see that almost all the donors who suspended their support are back. So the financial situation is better than it could have been, if this had continued. But of course, it is still not good, which is why we are now topping up our support. It was very important to make that message, because we can simply not accept that key agencies of the United Nations, of the world body, as being subject to that kind of colossal and unfair critique over time. This was actually not only a critique of UNRWA, but of the entire UN system. This must not be tolerated. But of course, at the same time, we were clear from the very first day that if individuals were guilty of transgressions, they needed to be responded to. But not by collective punishment of all Palestinians, through the suspension of funds to UNRWA. There is no alternative today, nor in the foreseeable future, to the work of UNRWA. And Norway work constantly, not only to contribute to the end of fighting and to the stepping up of humanitarian efforts in the current situation, and even more so in the immediate post ceasefire situation, but always reminding people that the real solution to the drama of the Middle East must lie in a two state solution. In that we need to build the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, make it possible for them also to return to Gaza. And in that work, the work of the UN and most importantly, in this part of the world through UNRWA is indispensable. It simply has to be able to work and it has to be respected.

Just to again echo what the development Minister said, we are full of praise to the work that your employees is doing under these incredibly difficult circumstances, on the ground because of constant fighting and constant bombardments, but also standing up to this massive onslaught of critique. So thank you for being with us and glad to see you in Oslo. You are among friends.