Switzerland's support for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East: continued contribution to UNRWA for the period 2023–24

05 December 2022

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Switzerland).

At its meeting on 2 December 2022, the Federal Council approved Switzerland's continued support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA will receive CHF 20 million annually for the years 2023 and 2024. With these funds, Switzerland is reaffirming its commitment to human development, humanitarian action and regional stability.

Switzerland's allocation of CHF 20 million per year (CHF 40 million in total) for the period 2023–24 will enable UNRWA to continue operating despite the challenging situation. Switzerland is thereby continuing to exert a positive influence on UNRWA policy and working methods. As a member of the Advisory Commission on UNRWA, Switzerland is able to advance its priorities. To ensure that UNRWA fulfils its mandate as a UN agency and puts the funds it receives to effective use, Switzerland supports the structural reforms initiated in 2019. Switzerland's funding for UNRWA will continue to be primarily focused on programmes aimed at providing Palestinian refugees with access to high-quality education, healthcare, social services, microfinance facilities and infrastructure.


A contribution to stability in the Middle East

In the absence of a political solution to the conflict, UNRWA continues to play a key role as a stabilising factor in the region. As the Federal Council recognised in the MENA Strategy 2021–24, instability in the Middle East is not only a significant challenge at the local and international level, but also for Switzerland. The long years of blockade and hostilities on the Gaza Strip, the conflict that has raged in Syria since 2011 and the economic crisis in Lebanon are taking a heavy toll on Palestinian refugees. The occupied Palestinian territory and neighbouring countries are bearing the brunt of this situation. For example, 96 per cent of the Palestinian refugees who are still living in Syria depend on humanitarian aid provided by UNRWA for their survival. Some 60 per cent of these refugees have been displaced from their home districts at least once since the conflict began. In Lebanon, 93 per cent of Palestinian refugees live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the situation of Palestinian refugees and poses a new set of challenges for UNRWA.


Key role of UNRWA in creating prospects for young people

UNRWA runs 710 schools that provide nearly 540,000 children with an education. It is thereby creating opportunities and helping to reduce the risk of radicalisation among young people. Recent graduates of UNRWA certified vocational training programmes are in demand in the regional labour market. After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNRWA took a variety of measures to ensure that children and young people would continue to have access to education, including online learning programmes. UNRWA also runs 143 primary health care centres in the region, providing 3.1 million Palestinian refugees with access to high-quality health services each year. It also provides approximately 400,000 Palestine refugees with a social safety net in the form of food or cash/cash vouchers.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to  the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.


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