The UN Agency warning of lack of progress in peace talks

Alyn calls for increased engagement of UNRWA

Alyn Smith MEP, SNP member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has paid tribute to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and echoed UNRWA chief’s warning of the devastating effect of the continued deadlock in the Middle Eastern peace process. 

During the exchange of views with UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, Alyn called for an increased cooperation, involvement and further exchange of expertise with the UN agency.

After the debate Alyn said:

“Much of the roots of the situation we see are of course rooted in the Empire and as a Scottish member of the European Parliament I’m very conscious that many of the consequences of what’s happening today are rooted in long-term historic injustices. And the consequences of the status quo will be much wider for the entire region and the entire world. We must remain engaged and seek compromise among the parties involved.

“I’d love to see UNRWA more engaged in targeting the causes and be much more vocal about the triggers of this situation. With years of experience and expertise, gained working directly on the ground, UNRWA is ideally placed to offer valuable perspective and insight into the reality both the Palestinians and Israelis face.

“Israel is a democracy, there are forces for dialogue and for progress within Israel’s incredibly complex society. Importantly, it’s a democracy in the way that Syria is not. There are people within Israel that we can do business with. There are people we can support and encourage while remaining true to our values. I’m pro-dialogue, I carry no torch for any side and it’s not just the two sides to this conflict.

“There is no shortage of meetings, which are essentially pointless, there is no shortage of dialogue, which has gone nowhere. What we’ve got is a number of ideas around this house; suspending Association Agreement, labelling settlement produce, suspending participation in Horizon 2020. There are ways in which we can exert our influence, which would potentially make a significant impact within the Israeli society.

“However, if things continue as they are, there is no amount of money that we can give to UNWRA, which will actually create a political solution.”

UNRWA’s chief Pierre Krähenbühl said: 

“What we’re seeing is a reality of separation living behind walls two groups living apart.

“What strikes me the most is that we have communities in Gaza and in Israel, two communities, that are starting to grow side by side but contrary to the earlier generations, the younger generations are growing up without any contact, without any knowledge of one another.

“65% of populations in Gaza are under 25 years old, that represents a time bomb because these are people well-educated but with no opportunities today and no prospects for the future.

“If issues such as this are not addressed in political terms and political solution remains illusive or beyond reach you get 65 years of an agency like UNWRA. It was never foreseen and never planned that we would be in operation for so long. And in the absence of a political solution it’s unfortunate that we’ll be active for a number of years yet.”