Explanation of Vote on Agenda Item 54: “UNRWA in the Near East” and Agenda Item 55: “Israeli Practices and Settlement Activities”
Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 9, 2021
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
The United States’ position is that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity. This is important because it’s on the basis of this position that we are going to reach our shared goal – the goal of a negotiated two-state solution.
The package of resolutions we are voting on today do not serve that goal. We are disappointed that Member States continue to disproportionally single out Israel. For this reason, the United States strongly opposes the annual submission of a package of resolutions biased against Israel. And while we do appreciate the modest efforts that have been taken to reduce the numbers of these resolutions, if the problematic and biased language remains, this effort is, well, moot.
One-sided resolutions like those introduced here today only distract from the real efforts to achieve peace. This effort will only be strengthened when the bias of the United Nations against Israel ends. The United States will continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize Israel.
Regarding, Madam Chairwoman, the resolutions pertaining to UNRWA, this year, the United States returns to a position of abstention on the text “Assistance to Palestine Refugees”. As many Members know, under President Biden, the United States announced it would restore its financial support to UNRWA, which we do believe is a vital lifeline to millions of Palestinians across the region. Since April, the U.S. government has provided more than $318 million to UNRWA in Fiscal Year 2021, including critical support for education, health, and social services benefiting millions of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
We were pleased to see language included in several of the resolutions that reflect our priorities in line with strengthening UNRWA. This language puts a stronger onus on the Agency and on UN leadership to demonstrate a renewed commitment to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence, and impartiality, as well as provides a basis for strengthened agency oversight. The United States will continue to work with UNRWA; work to strengthen the Agency’s accountability, its transparency, and its consistency with UN principles.
Looking ahead, Madam Chairwoman, let me echo other comments that have been made, and join others in expressing our deep concern about the recurrent funding crises UNRWA has faced. The agency needs reforms – reforms to improve its financial sustainability so that Palestinian refugees can be assured of reliable access to assistance and services. I would also like to take a moment to point out the overwhelming support from Member States for these resolutions voted here today, compared with the relatively few Member States that financially support UNRWA. In light of the Agency’s urgent shortfall, the United States urges Member States to support UNRWA’s services for Palestinian refugees not only in word, but in action, and to do so on an expedited basis.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.