RWG Gavel's Mission
Notes for Gavel's Press Conference
14 May 1996
As the Gavel-Holder of the Refugee Working Group
in the Multilateral Peace Process, I have been here
in Jordan to lead a delegation of members of the Working
This mission was mandated by the last session of
the Refugee Working Group, to visit camps in Jordan
and to meet with the Jordanian government to identify
needs and explore prospects for RWG actions. We will
report back to the next plenary meeting of the Refugee
Working Group, later this year.
This is the second such mission to Jordan. My predecessor
as Gavel led a similar mission to the camps in Jordan
The members of the mission represent some of the
41 countries and delegations participating in the
work of the Refugee Working Group. Besides Canada,
the countries participating in this mission have been
The European Union, Japan, Morocco, Switzerland and
In the RWG our mandate is:
- to improve the present conditions of refugees and
displaced persons without prejudicing their rights
or their future status,
- to facilitate access to family reunification, and,
- to contribute to the process of finding a lasting
solution to the refugee problem
The Refugee Working Group has had eight plenary
meetings in which it has focussed on seven themes:
economic and social infrastructure, human resources
development, job creation and vocational training,
public health, family reunification, data bases and
child welfare. The group has served as a focus for
projects and activities dedicated to improving the
current humanitarian conditions of refugees, without
prejudicing their future status, and to supporting
the framework of negotiations. More than $130 million
in projects have been committed through or announced
at RWG plenary sessions. Here in Jordan there have
been many projects implemented by UNRWA, including
schools, medical centres and women's activity centres.
There have also been projects in the field of data
bases and support for NGO and other activities. While
in the camps we were taken to see some of the new
facilities contributed by donors in support of the
work of the RWG.
This mission reflects the importance the international
community attaches to dialogue and transparency. We
have wanted to hear the views of the Refugees, and
for our part to assure them that there are no secret
plans in the multilaterals.
We came to hear the points of view of the camp residents
and of the Jordanian government as to what the RWG
should be doing inrespect of the Palestinian refugee
population in Jordan, both about the present humanitarian
situation and about the future. This is particularly
timely in the context of the opening of the permanent
status talks between the PLO and Israel. In the RWG
we have been conscious that the role of the multilateral
process is to complement and support the bilateral
negotiations, not substitute for them.
From the Palestinian refugees we heard repeated
strong affirmation of their commitment to the principle
of the right of return. At the same time I think members
of the mission were struck by the emphasis throughout
on the attachment of the Palestinians to peace, and
to the achievement of their goals by peaceful means.
The refugees also expressed their appreciation to
His Majesty King Hussein and the government of Jordan
for the constant support and care shown for their
situation here in Jordan.
The refugees told us about their support for UNRWA
and stressed the importance of the continuation of
the UNRWA services until there is a permanent solution.
At the same time they underlined their continuing
needs in a variety of areas, education, health, housing
sanitation and camp infrastructure. The members of
the delegation were struck by the deficiencies in
some of these areas in some camps.
Another important part of the mission was our dialogue
with the Jordanian government about the future. We
met with the Crown Prince, and with various government
officials. From the Jordanian side we heard about
the magnitude of the services which the Jordanian
government is providing to the refugees in Jordan,
which is in the range of $300 million per year. Jordanian
spokespersons also underlined Jordan's commitment
to equal treatment of all Jordanians, and the determination
that the refugee issue be dealt with in a comprehensive
perspective. We were told of the importance Jordan
attaches to the RWG in connection with solving the
human dimension of the question in accordance with
article 8 of the Jordan Israel peace treaty.
We also had good meetings with UNRWA, who briefed
us about the camps in Jordan and the services provided,
and the problems faced by UNRWA in maintaining the
level of services given the growing population.
The mission will be preparing a report for submission
to the next plenary meeting of the RWG, which will
be held later this year.