The Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin T.D meets with John Ging, Executive Director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency
Speaking after the meeting the Minister said:
“I know John that you have been a witness to the devastation – both human and material – which war has visited upon the peoples of Rwanda, Bosnia, and now, most recently, Gaza. You have shone a light on the destruction of that conflict – the cruelty of its needless deaths; the mindlessness of the savagery and violence which diminishes us all. Against that background, you have with great courage and fortitude carried forward the humanitarian message of the value of each and every life. Your advocacy was effective – you helped to show the world what was really happening; its costs in human terms; its cost in material terms; its cost in reinforcing bitterness and hatred. In other words; its utter futility. There are no winners – everyone loses.
The Gaza conflict has highlighted the work of UNRWA and the commitment and courage of all those who work for UNRWA. I would like to underline here the commitment of the Government to the support of UNRWA. In 2006 we took a decision to increase our core funding to an annual figure of at least €3.8 million, and this year we were appointed by the UN General Assembly to membership of the Advisory Commission of UNRWA. I want to assure you that, notwithstanding the current difficult budgetary climate, it is our firm intention to continue that support. We will also continue our wider support to the people of Palestine. Last year Irish Aid spent €8.5 million on Palestine and at the recent meeting at Sharm el Sheikh where I met with the head of UNRWA Karen AbuZayd, I undertook to increase that funding by an additional €2.5 million this year.
I want on behalf the Irish people to thank you for what you have done. You have shone the light; you have shown the world the horror of war and thereby the need to progress the peace process; you have been throughout an outstanding example of a committed humanitarian. You calmness and steadfastness in such difficult conditions impressed everyone who heard and saw you during the recent conflict and I wish to all the best in the future”.
Note for Editors
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
UNRWA was established in 1949 with responsibility for both humanitarian relief and the provision of basic services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Initially it provided assistance to the roughly 800,000 people who had fled the former British Mandate of Palestine. This population has now grown to 4.6 million Palestinian refugees and UNRWA’s role and responsibility has grown proportionally. The Agency runs programmes in the areas of education and health care, relief and social services, microfinance and the improvement of infrastructure. Most of its 29,000 staff are themselves Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA’s schools serve approximately 500,000 refugee children. The Agency’s health programmes deliver comprehensive primary health care and other services. UNRWA’s relief services cater for those refugees hardest hit by poverty, including widows, the elderly and the handicapped. The Agency also operates a microfinance programme which gives financial assistance as well as training to refugees and others who run small enterprises. In emergency situations UNRWA gives refugees temporary employment, cash assistance and food.
Irish Aid support for UNRWA
Since 2005 Ireland has provided €12.6 million in funding to UNRWA. In 2007, the Irish government announced its decision to increase Irish Aid funding for UNRWA’s core activities to €3.8 million per year. This level of funding maintained over three years positioned Ireland as one of the key core contributors to UNRWA and resulted in Ireland being appointed to membership of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission by the UN General Assembly in 2009.
John Ging (Biography)
Mr. John Ging is Director of UNRWA Operations in the Gaza Strip since 2006. He holds a BA Political Science; Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Barrister at Law (BL).
He was commissioned into the Defence forces in 1983 and served in peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He then worked for eighteen months for the Irish NGO, Goal, as Regional Director for Rwanda, Zaire and Tanzania responding to the refugee crises in the immediate aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. He was subsequently seconded by the Defence forces to the OSCE mission for Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1997 where he rose to the position of Chief of Staff, OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a position in which he served until his appointment with UNRWA.
Mr. Ging took up his UNRWA post on February 1st. 2006, five days after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature elections. He is in charge of UNRWA’s development programmes as well as the provision of humanitarian assistance to 750,000 refugees. He has had to struggle to secure enough food to sustain the refugees and implement a $90 million programme for upgrading schools, clinics and other facilities. As head of the UNRWA's operation in Gaza, he became a crucial information source for media and for the international community during Israel's 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza.
Department of Foreign Affairs
26th March 2009