Lebanon’s speech before the Conference of Supervisors of Palestinian Affairs in Arab Host countries

Lebanon’s speech before the Conference of Supervisors of Palestinian Affairs in Arab Host countries, delivered by representative of Lebanon Brigadier General Muhammad Al-Saba

Your Excellency, Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Ambassador Dr. Saeed Abu Ali, members of the conference supervising the affairs of Palestinians in Arab Host countries, dear sisters and brothers,

From Beirut, I bring to you, on behalf of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee in the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, my highest appreciation for your efforts in following up and supervising the affairs of Palestinians in Host Countries. Not only does this reflect an awareness of the challenges we are experiencing, but it also shows a deep commitment to the Palestinian refugee cause in particular.

Your Excellencies,

Exacerbating humanitarian crises, and the shift in understandings of human rights, justice, and modes of influence urge us to continue to review our strategies, programs, and solutions, whether at the national or host country level in order to form the best response to current challenges.

This is essential at this time, amid the decline in UNRWA services due to its financial deficit, which invokes fears and concerns considering intersecting economic, financial, livelihood and social crises hitting our countries, directly affecting refugees, who are among the most vulnerable.

Among the core takeaways of the recent strike of UNRWA employees in the West Bank, Advisory Commission Members, in their recommendations to the Agency, underlined the important need to better anticipate complex workforce issues, by embracing modernization, by supporting strategic vision and discussions to secure the future of this workforce, by setting in motion processes to work differently on structural labor issues, and by uplifting the contributions of UNRWA staff in enriching vibrant Palestinian communities, despite enduring shocks and protracted crises in their hosting environments.

We express our gratitude to Dr. Ahmad Abu Houli for his efforts to mediate the strike in the West Bank, allowing children to resume their schooling. Given that the issue of UNRWA’s workforce has a domino effect on other host countries, we emphasize the importance of coordinating between us to overcome such challenges.

My dear colleagues,

As former chair of the UNRWA Advisory Commission for two consecutive years, Lebanon recognizes the importance of maintaining communication and dialogue among all members of the Committee to achieve necessary change. The spirit of dialogue, advising, and assisting the agency should be strengthened, despite the many challenges it faces in providing vital services to Palestine refugees in the Middle East. This requires our immediate and sustained attention. Because the decline in UNRWA services affects the lives of millions of Palestine refugees, we must stand shoulder to shoulder with host governments, the Agency and international partners to ensure the continuity of vital services. The Agency must also embrace open and honest dialogue and promote transparency and trust among all stakeholders, donors and hosts, in order to bring about the necessary change.

The Advisory Commission is a platform for dialogue between host countries and donors, and with Lebanon as former Chair of the Commission, we all sat around the table in an effort to find concrete solutions and speak openly and honestly about the fundamental challenges that UNRWA faces, to protect its mandate for the future interest of host countries.

In this context, I believe that it is our duty as refugee-hosting countries to discuss innovative paths forward with donors to address the issues at hand, to ultimately not just reduce the burdens on host countries, but also ensure that UNRWA is placed on a more sustainable route that enables Palestinian refugees and host countries to engage with UNRWA and achieve needed goals.

Most importantly, host countries are familiar with their own context, and best suited to find just solutions. This kind of cooperation is most evident through the Host Government Technical Exchange Committee, which brings together Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine to share their experience and move toward developing solutions to benefit the lives of Palestinian refugees in the camps. Additional follow up is required at a later stage to expand this group to include Syria.

I would like to draw your attention to the recommendations put forward by the former Chair of the UNRWA Advisory Commission, Chairman of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee Dr. Bassel Al Hassan, at the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting held in Beirut. Dr. Al Hassan emphasized a series of points to constitute a strategic, multi-level roadmap, to support UNRWA, its donors, and beneficiaries.

Most notably:

  • Our commitment to UNRWA’s mandate does not enable considering a reduction in vital services to Palestinian refugees to be a viable option if we seek to uphold human security in the region.
  • As applied to UNRWA, the technical and political realms are inseparable. UNRWA’s multilayered challenges can only be addressed by a focus on political solutions to politically rooted crises. 

As the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, we have achieved important strides in recent years. In September 2022, we successfully revived the Joint Palestinian Coalition to strengthen unity among Palestinian factions. With regard to the issue of rights, we are maintaining ongoing efforts in dialogue starting from November 2022, through to September of this year, which has been critical in raising awareness and support for the committee’s initiatives.

We are now drafting a charter of rights and duties, and developing a draft law to address the legal status of Palestinian refugees. Our ultimate goal, is to propose this law to the Lebanese parliament to obtain official approval, and move forward with its implementation.

Finally, we stand in solidarity with our people in occupied Palestine, especially with the residents of the Jenin camp and the West Bank, who have experienced increased sieges, oppression, and an aggressive expansion of settlements pursued by the Israeli occupation for decades, with no regard for international law and human rights. The worst that we have witnessed since 2002.

The Palestinian cause is at a historical junction, now facing the worst far right-wing government since the beginning of the occupation. We need solidarity among us Arabs, to rally and unify around the Palestinian people more than ever before.

Thank you,

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