UN aid to Palestinians likely to increase but Authority plays crucial role

Concerned at the prospect of a further deterioration in the living conditions of Palestinians in the new political climate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the United Nations would most likely increase the scale of its assistance and urged intensified donor support to the people, while stressing that the Palestinian Authority remains critical to averting a humanitarian crisis.In a message to a UN seminar being held in Cairo, Mr. Annan called for “all concerned” to understand the central role played by the Palestinian administration. “Increased UN and NGO [non-governmental organization] activity cannot fill the void that would be created were the institutions of the Palestinian Authority to be unable to do so,” Mr. Annan cautioned in the message, which was delivered by Assistant Secretary-General Angela Kane.“These institutions, moreover, are the blocks on which we hope to build a Palestinian State,” he added. “Bearing in mind all these considerations, the United Nations will continue to work with our partners and the parties to try to find ways to ensure that the needs of the Palestinians are met.”He said that a combination of factors is coming together that could precipitate a humanitarian crisis: key donors have discontinued direct support to the Palestinian Authority; Israel continues to withhold tax clearance revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and the contraction of economic activity is expected to reduce Palestinian domestic tax revenues. In addition, he said the irregular operation of the Karni commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel and the system of internal closures in the West Bank hinder the movement of people and goods, exacerbating poverty and unemployment, and adding to the humiliation and hardship caused by barrier construction and other factors.“The UN has repeatedly expressed its concern over these matters and continues to remind Israel that it must uphold its responsibilities as an occupying power under international law,” he said.At the same time, he called upon the Palestinian Authority to reaffirm Palestinian commitment to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel’s right to exist and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map outline peace plan, which envisages two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side within secure and internationally recognized borders.

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