VIOLENCE COSTING PALESTINIAN ECONOMY $10 MILLION A DAY
agency asks for $311 million to aid refugees in
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations
December 5, 2000
United Nations -- As a result of the violence in the Occupied
Territories, the Palestinian economy has suffered income losses of
more than $500 million and about 40 percent of the Palestinian
workforce is unemployed, a senior U.N. official reported December
The U.N. Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories Terje
Rod-Larsen said that each day the crisis costs the Palestinian
economy $10 million in losses and the World Bank expects the poverty
rate to reach 32 percent of the population by the end of
This is in stark contrast to a poverty rate of less than 20
percent in September, he said.
Speaking to a meeting in Gaza of donors and senior officials of
the Palestinian Authority, Rod-Larsen said, "Palestinian living
conditions are falling fast, and safety nets are wearing
thin." He pointed out that over 260,000 Palestinians are
unemployed in the West Bank and Gaza, but because each worker
supports several other people, an estimated 1 million Palestinians
-- about one-third the entire population -- have suffered serious
loss of income.
Saying that "three years of progress have been wiped out in two
months of conflict," the coordinator noted that between 1996 and
1999 the unemployment rate had dropped from 30 percent to 12
Rod-Larsen said he told the Israeli government that border
closures and other restrictions are counter-productive.
Unemployment and poverty lead directly to anger and
aggression. Israel faced a contradiction: closures are imposed
for security reasons but in reality they were creating a less secure
environment, he said.
"There can be no end to the current violence until there is real
political progress on the ground," he said. "And there will be
no lasting peace until there is real improvement in the economic
conditions of Palestinians."
At U.N. headquarters in New York December 4 donor countries
pledged $38.5 million for the regular budget of the U.N. Relief and
Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East
(UNRWA). They also pledged an additional $22 million for an
emergency appeal issued in November.
The pledges, however, fell far short of the $311 million the
agency said it needs to provide services to more than 3.8 million
Palestine refugees in 2001.
The United States, one of the major contributors to UNRWA, said
that it was not able to specify a pledge at the meeting because of
continuing budget negotiations in Washington.
Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a senior U.S. advisor to the U.S.
delegation at the 55th General Assembly, said that the United States
strongly supports UNRWA and its work on behalf of the Palestinian
"The United States commends UNRWA for its extraordinary efforts
these past few weeks to assist the refugees during the recent rounds
of violence," Abercrombie-Winstanley said.
"In October the United States responded to UNRWA's first
emergency appeal for funds to purchase medical supplies. We
encourage the donor community to look favorably upon UNRWA's most
recent appeal for funds to provide medicines, blankets, and
emergency cash and food baskets," she said. "The U.S. calls on
the international community to demonstrate its support for the
welfare of the Palestinian refugee community through strong
financial commitments to UNRWA's core programs."
"UNRWA's efforts on behalf of the refugees play a vital role not
only towards the welfare of the Palestinian community, but also in
support of the international community's efforts to promote an end
to the violence between the parties and towards finding a just and
lasting peace," Abercrombie-Winstanley said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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