Ad Melkert: International donor conference for Gaza

Mar 2, 2009

Statement by Ad Melkert , UN Under Secretary- General and Administrator, a.i., of the United Nations Development Programme; International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza

I would like to thank the Government of Egypt for hosting this Conference and for its efforts to promote peace and stability in this region.

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this crucial Conference and to echo UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as well as the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, in welcoming the Plan presented to this conference.

As my colleague UNRWA Commissioner-General, Karen Abu Zayd, has already pointed out, Gaza’s needs are extensive. Countless children, women and men suffer the devastating consequences of decisions taken beyond their will. 15,000 houses in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged, affecting more than 100,000 people. The Gazan economy has come to a near standstill. Unemployment stood at 46% of the population in Gaza before the recent violence and this can only have worsened.  Jobs and productive assets, including capital stock and agricultural land, have been destroyed, and approximately 100,000 Palestinians have been displaced. A lack of water, electricity, health care, fuel and education affects 1.4 million people.  The human suffering affecting 80% of the population that lives below $2 per day in Gaza should not, and cannot, be a situation that the world tolerates.

Long-term economic prospects and lasting social progress and stability depend upon the will of all parties concerned to refrain from violence and reach a political solution. Whilst the humanitarian response to immediate needs is crucial, we must without delay expand our support to early recovery activities, including removing rubble and unexploded ordnances, restoring livelihoods, re-establishing basic social services, repairing essential infrastructure, and providing psycho-social support to children, women and men who have suffered trauma.

These activities are central to restoring human dignity and will lay the foundation for longer term recovery, reconstruction and development. The United Nations has worked in collaboration with other partners, to support the Palestinian Authority in the damage and needs assessment in Gaza, which were critical inputs to the Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza (2009-2010).

If there is one message that emerges today, it is that we must all work together to respond to the scale, severity and urgency of recovery needs by implementing the Plan presented here today. Pooling and coordinating international financial support is crucial to reach the needs of the people.  

In today’s volatile economic times we cannot afford to work on different tracks. I call on all donors in a position to contribute, to ensure that support is provided for the recovery phase, even when the “cameras have gone” from the “hotspot”.

It is imperative that the international community supports the political process. However, the economic, social and human development needs of the people of Gaza should not be held hostage by progress on the political track. Access to goods, materials and services and the movement of people across borders must not be prevented at a time when the population is in dire need of our assistance and support.  Stability and trust will benefit from recovery and reconstruction. Like all parents, parents in Gaza want a future for their children free from fear.

The UN and our partners in early recovery stand ready to reinvigorate our support to the people of Gaza.

I ask you to join us in an effective and coordinated response to this crisis. Let our moral compass guide us to pragmatic solutions for a peaceful and prosperous future for the people living in Gaza.

Thank you.

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