U.S. General Statement During UNGA Fourth Committee Action on Agenda Item 49, pertaining to UNRWA

John Kelley
Minister Counsellor
New York, New York
November 9, 2023


Thank you, Madam Chair. Colleagues,

I’d like to make a few remarks at this time, relating to both agenda item 49, pertaining to UNRWA, and agenda [item] 50, pertaining to “Israeli practices.”

As we stated earlier this week, one-sided resolutions, whether put forward in the Security Council or here in our General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, will not help to advance peace. Not when they ignore facts on the ground. One-sided resolutions only perpetuate longstanding lines of division at a moment when we urgently need to work together.

Today’s slate of resolutions includes such one-sided texts. Let us be clear: There are no shortcuts to a two-state solution, and this package of resolutions will neither advance peace nor create the conditions for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. The United States opposes any and all resolutions that are one-sided or seek to hold Israel to a standard not expected of other countries.

The United States will abstain on the resolution entitled “Assistance to Palestine refugees,” and vote against the “Operations of UNRWA” resolution. We oppose the latter resolution because it prejudges final status issues that should be determined through negotiations between the parties, not via the General Assembly.

These votes should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in or support for UNRWA, which serves [an] essential stabilizing role across the region. More than 90 UNRWA staff have lost their lives in the past month. And thousands are putting their lives on the line every day to help the people of Gaza. The United States conveys our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones and colleagues. We have extraordinary admiration for the courage of UNRWA’s staff, and I want to underscore our support for UNRWA’s work.

Lives are hanging in the balance every single day. We must all step up to provide additional funding – as the United States has done. We are proud to be the single largest donor to Palestinian refugees, having contributed more than $1 billion to UNRWA since 2021. And President Biden recently announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

We encourage all member states to increase their financial support to UNRWA – including to both [the] emergency appeal and the core budget. Many countries in this room offer rhetorical support to UNRWA but have provided precious little support to the organization. Too many states laud UNRWA and call for increased humanitarian assistance without providing contributions themselves. We call on member states to match their rhetorical support for UNRWA with concrete financial support.

We continue to support UNRWA’s reform efforts that strengthen the agency’s accountability and transparency. We also underscore the need for the agency to continue to work strictly in line with the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence, humanity, and impartiality.

Madame Chair, in the two weeks since the United States helped reach agreement with Israel, Egypt, and the UN on ways to get humanitarian aid to civilians in need, the UN has made life-saving deliveries. Still, the volume of aid entering Gaza is not enough, and we are pressing to increase the number of deliveries and to restore basic services to civilians.

During his recent visit to the region, Secretary Blinken spoke to leaders about tangible steps that can be taken to increase the sustained delivery of food, water, medicine, fuel, and other essential needs while also putting in place measures to prevent diversion of these resources by Hamas and other terrorist groups. We have identified mechanisms to enable fuel to reach hospitals and to meet other urgent needs in the south. These mechanisms need to be fully operationalized.

President Biden has expressed his support for humanitarian pauses in the fighting in Gaza to allow hostages to get out, to allow humanitarian aid to get in and distributed, and to allow safe passage for civilians.