|Wikileaks:||View 02AMMAN2396 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||PREF PREL EAID KPAL KWBG IS JO|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 002396 SIPDIS DEPT FOR PRM AND NEA; PLEASE PASS TO USAID E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/13/2012 TAGS: PREF, PREL, EAID, KPAL, KWBG, IS, JO SUBJECT: UNRWA DONORS MEETING HIGHLIGHTS CRISIS GRIPPING AGENCY Classified By: DCM GREG BERRY, PER 1.5 (B) AND (D). 1. (SBU) Summary and comment: UNRWA's May 8-9 meeting of major donors and host governments highlighted the crisis gripping the humanitarian agency as a result of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Continued Israeli closures in the West Bank and Gaza have severely hindered UNRWA's ability to provide services and relief. Financially, UNRWA's General Fund (basic services) programs are on solid ground, but its emergency programs are severely underfunded. UNRWA warned that damages resulting from the March-April Israeli offensive will require USD 65 million in new emergency funding, in addition to the USD 117 million emergency appeal launched in January 2002. (USD 35 million of these needs should be met by the UAE's pledge to rebuild Jenin refugee camp.) No significant new contributions were announced at the meeting and UNRWA confirmed in side discussions that Japan and Denmark had cut their contributions. 2. (C) Summary and comment continued: If UNRWA is to continue to be the primary refugee humanitarian assistance provider in the West Bank and Gaza, continued, high-level engagement on access issues will be crucial, as will continued financial support. But as UNRWA's mandate becomes even more intertwined with daily political pressures, we need to help UNRWA focus on its humanitarian mandate and minimize friction created by impolitic or ill-considered statements. The key issue is access for the provision of humanitarian relief -- any friction that gets in the way of that should be minimized. End summary and comment. 3. (U) On May 8-9, UNRWA held its semiannual meeting of major donors and host governments in Amman. The U.S. delegation consisted of Charge Greg Berry, PRM PDAS Rich Greene, PRM Program Officer Jan Levin and Regional Refcoord Joan Polaschik. LIMITED ACCESS CONTINUES TO HINDER UNRWA OPERATIONS --------------------------------------------- ------ 4. (SBU) UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen opened the meeting by telling donors that UNRWA had "never faced a more difficult situation." With the majority of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza now living below the poverty line, UNRWA's services are more important than ever before. Yet Israeli denial of access to UNRWA and other humanitarian relief agencies is making it extremely difficult for UNRWA to meet its mandate. Hansen characterized recent Israeli military operations as a "campaign against the camps" and reported that the IDF had targeted UN facilities such as schools and health centers, in violation of the UN's privileges and immunities. 28 new UNRWA classrooms under construction in Askar camp, for example, were destroyed by the IDF in the April incursions. 5. (SBU) UNRWA West Bank Field Director Richard Cook provided a detailed description of the hardships facing the agency. Due to the closure-induced economic difficulties plaguing the West Bank and Gaza since September 2000, Cook reported that most Palestinian refugees were unable to stock the food, medicines or savings to cope with the recent Israeli military offensive. As a result, many more refugees are now dependent on UNRWA for basic services. 6. (SBU) Cook said that UNRWA's humanitarian access is the "worst" he has seen in recent years. (Cook is a veteran of UNRWA relief operations in the first intifada.) UNRWA's West Bank field office is operating at one-third of capacity, as Palestinian staff cannot leave their homes to reach work. Cook reported that UNRWA has the human resources necessary to cope with the current emergency, but its talent is stuck in Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin. When UNRWA tried to move its Palestinian staff members through the West Bank to respond to the emergency, its employees were "arrested and abused" and one employee was killed. (Note: With the exception of 13 international staff members, UNRWA relies on 4,200 Palestinian staff members to operate its schools, clinics and relief services throughout the West Bank.) Cook believes the closures will not be eased in the foreseeable future. 7. (SBU) Cook reported that UNRWA's coordination with the IDF was "as good as possible at the top," but that coordination broke down on the ground. He also said UNRWA was having increasing difficulty getting any response to its inquiries, either by phone or letter. Cook said the Israeli authorities had stopped issuing permits to UNRWA staff -- including Jerusalem permits required for field office staff -- "in violation of UN privileges and immunities." During the March and April offensives, UNRWA vehicles and staff were fired upon, and the IDF forcibly entered UN properties including schools and vocational training centers. Cook said the IDF "time and time again" used UNRWA buildings as defensive positions and detention centers. JENIN CAMP UPDATE ----------------- 8. (C) UNRWA's first priority for Jenin camp reconstruction is removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). UNRWA is unable to remove any of the rubble or rebuild the 800 destroyed shelters until the large amounts of UXO in the camp have been removed. Cook told donors the necessary equipment to remove and dispose of UXO contains explosives and therefore -- according to Israeli authorities -- poses a security risk. Although the Israeli government possesses the necessary equipment to handle the UXO, it will not lend the equipment to UNRWA unless it agrees to photograph and catalogue the (presumably Palestinian-origin) UXO found in the camp. Cook said UNRWA refuses to meet this condition, as it will impose unnecessary and potentially life-threatening delays on the removal of the ordnance. (In a separate conversation with refcoord, Cook said other nations have offered to send the equipment to UNRWA, but that Israel has said it would deny entry for the equipment.) 9. (U) Once the UXO and rubble have been removed from Jenin camp, UNRWA will begin the 18-month process of rebuilding the camp. Deputy Syria Field Director Lex Takkenberg (manager of the USG-funded Neirab housing project) has been dispatched to Jenin to conduct a survey of Jenin camp residents' needs and to oversee reconstruction efforts. ComGen Hansen reported that the UAE has pledged USD 35 million to rebuild the camp. Many donors expressed concern at the steep (USD 30,000) unit costs implicit in the UAE's donation. UNRWA officials assured donors that per-unit costs included rubble removal and infrastructure repairs required to rebuild the camp. EMERGENCY APPEAL UNDERFUNDED; NEW NEEDS ESTIMATED AT USD 65 MILLION --------------------------------------------- -------------- 10. (U) Hansen reported that UNRWA's 2001 emergency appeals were funded at 80 percent, a "respectable" showing for any appeal. However, the USD 117 million appeal issued in January 2002 was severely underfunded, with only USD 47 million received to date (including a USD 30 million contribution from the U.S.). West Bank Director Cook reported that UNRWA had not already run out of cash only because continuing access difficulties had prevented the agency from implementing most of its planned emergency activities, such as temporary employment creation or remedial education programs. Moreover, many of UNRWA's relief activities during the April offensive (distribution of food, water, blankets) were conducted using supplies donated by Israeli Arabs and international volunteers from other UN agencies. 11. (U) Based on its very preliminary assessment of damages and social needs resulting from the Israeli incursions, UNRWA believes it will need USD 65 million in additional emergency funding, beyond the USD 117 million requested in the January 2002 appeal. Cook confirmed that the USD 65 million includes the USD 35 million already pledged by the UAE to rebuild Jenin refugee camp, leaving the unfunded new needs at USD 30 million. Therefore, with only USD 47 million in its emergency coffers to date, UNRWA needs an estimated USD 100 million to continue its West Bank and Gaza emergency programs through the end of the year. Hansen and Cook both cautioned that the figure could be much greater if closures are tightened or further military incursions occur. Hansen also told donors UNRWA likely would need more international staff to cover the functions normally performed by Palestinian staff who cannot move freely through the West Bank and Gaza. REGULAR PROGRAMS ON SOLID FINANCIAL GROUND, BUT PROJECT FUNDS USED TO COVER CASH SHORTFALLS --------------------------------------------- --------------- 12. (U) Reporting that UNRWA had ended the year 2001 with the "highest budget growth in decades," Hansen told donors that UNRWA had been able to repay USD 8.9 million in debt to its project fund and set aside funding for a working capital reserve. Nevertheless, UNRWA in 2002 expected a budget deficit of USD 12.3 million, as its expected contributions likely would not keep pace with the natural growth of the refugee population. Hansen announced that two donors (later identified as Japan and Denmark) planned to reduce their contributions this year. 13. (U) Hansen also admitted to donors that UNRWA had used its special project accounts to cover cash shortfalls and meet basic operating expenses such as payroll. Hansen asserted that UNRWA's use of special project funds for general programs had not slowed project implementation. He told donors that UNRWA's use of a unified cash account is standard UN practice and allows the voluntarily funded agency to keep operations running in spite of cash shortfalls. Hansen also told donors UNRWA would be able to reduce its project deficit more quickly if it could solve the PA VAT problem. MEETING ATMOSPHERICS -------------------- 14. (C) Statements by all delegations -- donors and host governments alike -- focused on the many difficulties UNRWA faces in carrying out its mandate. Criticism of Israeli targeting of humanitarian workers and restrictions upon UNRWA's mobility was quite strong, as was implied criticism of perceived U.S. failure to compel the GOI to provide humanitarian access. In both his public statements and private discussions with USG officials, Hansen at times adopted a tone that seemed to push up against the limits of UNRWA's strictly apolitical humanitarian mandate. While Hansen's remarks certainly reflected an accurate assessment of extremely difficult relations between UNRWA and Israeli government, he needs to work with Israel to accomplish humanitarian objectives. COMMENT ------- 15. (C) If UNRWA is to continue to be the primary refugee humanitarian assistance provider in the West Bank and Gaza, continued, high-level engagement on access issues will be crucial, as will continued financial support. But as UNRWA's mandate becomes even more intertwined with daily political pressures, we also need to help UNRWA remain focused on its humanitarian mandate and minimize friction created by rhetorical statements. In private conversation, Hansen himself acknowledged the importance of carefully crafting UNRWA statements to avoid political quagmires, but his rhetoric sometimes threatened to get the better of him. The key point is the provision of humanitarian assistance; unnecessary friction is not helpful in that regard. Gnehm
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