Statement During UNGA Fourth Committee General Debate on UNRWA

Ambassador Chris Lu
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
New York, New York
November 6, 2023


Mister Chair, we are deeply moved by the dedication of thousands of UNRWA and other humanitarian staff in Gaza who continue to serve others in need, even in the face of their own displacement and danger.

We know that the UN is coordinating the current humanitarian response under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. In Gaza, there is simply no replacement for the critical role of the UN, and especially UNRWA. For years, UNRWA schools, clinics, and relief efforts have served as the only alternative to Hamas in Gaza. Today, UNRWA staff are bravely delivering assistance and providing basic services and shelter to hundreds of thousands of civilians. And they are doing this work at great peril, having tragically lost more than 80 staff since the conflict began.

We mourn the UN staff who have been killed in Gaza since this conflict was started by Hamas. The lives of all UN and humanitarian personnel must be protected.

The lives of all civilians must be protected, whether it is innocent civilians, Israelis and Palestinians, men and women, children, and the elderly. There is no hierarchy when it comes to protecting civilian lives – a civilian is a civilian.

The United States is committed to serving as a strong partner to UNRWA to help it provide the most effective and efficient assistance possible, in a manner that respects human rights and is consistent with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.

The United States is the single largest donor to the Palestinian people, having contributed more than $1 billion to UNRWA since 2021. And President Biden recently announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Nevertheless, UNRWA is likely unable to pay salaries in November and December due to core budget gaps at a time when the humanitarian needs in Gaza and the region continue to rise. As we have just heard, UNRWA needs more support from more donors.

But of course, no amount of aid will matter if it cannot reach people in need. The U.S. continues to work with Israel, Egypt, the UN, and other partners to facilitate the rapid and sustained flow of assistance. Food, fuel, water, medicine, and other essentials services must be restored. And while the number of trucks entering Gaza continues to increase, it is not nearly enough. The amount of humanitarian assistance flowing into Gaza must be scaled up urgently.

President Biden has expressed his support for humanitarian pauses to allow hostages to get out, to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed, and to allow safe passage for civilians, which will help people access humanitarian assistance or move to safer locations.

Notwithstanding our strong support of UNRWA, we continue to have serious concerns about the slate of resolutions proposed every year in the Fourth Committee. Final status issues should be determined through negotiations between the parties, and not via the General Assembly.

Thank you, Mister Chair.