Secretary General Appoints New Commissioner-General and Deputy Commissioner-General

21 January 2010

20 January 2010

Filippo Grandi

The Secretary-General, following consultations with the Advisory Commission of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), has appointed Filippo Grandi, of Italy, as the Commissioner General of UNRWA. That appointment takes effect today, with Grandi replacing Karen AbuZayd, of the United States. The Secretary-General is deeply grateful to Ms. AbuZayd for her tireless and dedicated service to the Palestinian people and excellent leadership of UNRWA at an important juncture.

Grandi has been the Relief and Works Agency’s Deputy Commissioner General since September 2005. A strong advocate for the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees and an excellent manager, he has been instrumental in the success of UNRWA’s comprehensive and far-reaching management reforms.

The Secretary-General also announced the appointment of Margot B. Ellis of the United States as Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA, replacing Filippo Grandi. Since July 2008, Ms. Ellis has been USAID‘s Acting Assistant Administrator for Asia.

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at more than US$ 106  million.

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