From: Middle East International, 2 August 1996.
UNRWA and Lebanon
Trevor Mostyn claims in his Letter from Beirut (MEI 529) that UNRWA "is pulling out of the Lebanese camps in 1999 on the grounds that the Palestinian question has been solved by the Oslo Accords". This is not true and the matter requires clarification. At a meeting in Amman in March 1995 of UNRWA's Major Donor and Host Governments and its Advisory Commission (a consultative body of ten member states, first established in 1949, which now also has a working relationship with the PLO), a five-year financial "horizon" was presented as a framework for the planning and funding of UNRWA services during the interim period set out in the Israeli-PLO agreement of September 1993. This "horizon" was based on the premise that the discontinuation of UNRWA's role in providing services to Palestine refugees should not take place within the five-year period. A clear consensus arose at Amman that the Agency's services were a crucial element in supporting the peace process and would continue to be required until a political solution to the refugee problem was found. The participants agreed that it was premature to place a time limit on UNRWA's existence, for the period for which UNRWA services were required could not be predicted until there was an agreed solution to the refugee problem.
In October 1995, UNRWA's Advisory Commission reaffirmed the Amman consensus, in particular the need for UNRWA to continue its mission until an agreed political solution to the refugee problem was found. This remains the underlying assumption for projections regarding the Agency 's continuing existence.
UNRWA 's current mandate from the UN General Assembly runs up to 30 June 1999. Based on the experience of the past 46 years, there is no reason to expect that the mandate will not be renewed, probably for another three years, when it next comes up for consideration by the General Assembly in 1998. It is up to the international community, as embodied in the General Assembly, not to UNRWA unilaterally, to determine the Agency 's lifespan.
The point is often made that, given the particular vulnerability of the Palestine refugees, the international community's obligation to support and assist them will become more, not less, important in the coming years. It is widely expected that UNRWA, if given the financial support from donors that it requires to deliver its education, health, relief and social services, will continue to be the principal instrument through which that assistance is provided.
UNRWA Public Information Office
Rex Brynen * firstname.lastname@example.org * 22 October 1996