Statement of Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, The Commissioner-General of The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) To the 157th Session of the League of Arab States Council

22 March 2022
Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, The Commissioner-General of The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) delivers his statement to the To the 157th Session of the League of Arab States Council © 2022 UNRWA Photo

Mr. Secretary General of the League of Arab States,  


Thank you for giving UNRWA once more the privilege of addressing the League of Arab States.  

Since I last joined this forum, six months ago, the situation of Palestine refugees has continued to deteriorate across the region.   

The impact of last May conflict in Gaza remains acute on the daily life of the population, the economy and the infrastructure.

The deteriorating security and socio-economic situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is a source of major concern.  

The unprecedented financial and economic collapse of Lebanon pushed over 70 per cent of Palestine refugees under the poverty line.  

In Syria, the vast majority of Palestine refugees now live on less than US$ 2 a day.  

The economic situation in Jordan is dire, and Palestine refugees report increased hardship. 

Year after year, UNRWA has managed to provide critical services despite its chronic underfunding through austerity measures.  

But today we have exhausted our ability to continue to deliver education, health and social protection services to Palestine Refugees at the same level and quality we used to do.  


Because the needs of the refugees have increased, and so have the costs of the services that Palestinian communities and Member states expect us to deliver. Meanwhile, our resources have remained stable for more than a decade.  

The almost unanimous political support expressed by the UN General Assembly to the Agency is not translated into matching financial resources. 

UNRWA is expected to provide government-like services, and it does.

It is expected to abide by UN values and principles, and it does.  

And UNRWA is expected to raise voluntary funds to run its services.

But without sufficient and predictable funding from all those supporting our mandate, we cannot maintain our services in a sustainable way anymore.


Last year, we welcomed the return of the US among our largest donors. European and other donors have remained steadfast in their support.  

Governments in the Arab region continue to express a strong political support to the rights of Palestine refugees.  

Four years ago, the contribution from the region to UNRWA operations amounted to close to 25 percent of our budget. Last year, however, it reached a record low with an overall contribution of less than 3 percent.

This does not really echo the strong political support to Palestine Refugees.

Political support and funding from the region are the most compelling way to tell Palestine refugees that they have not been abandoned by their fellow Arabs. It is the best investment in the human development of Palestine refugees towards self-reliance.  

I wish here to thank the Members of the Arab League that have continued to fund UNRWA. Last year we concluded multiyear funding agreements with Kuwait and Qatar.   

Let me also thank the League of Arab States and its Secretary General for strongly supporting and advocating for Palestine refugees. 



Nobody wants to be a refugee.  

Every young Palestine refugee I meet during my visits to refugee camps strikes me as a potential success story.  

Like their peers everywhere, a Palestine refugee child or young person wants to hope that the future can be bright.  

Of the two million girls and boys who have gone through UNRWA schools in the last seven decades, success seems to be a common denominator to many teachers, engineers, artists, doctors and more.    

     Today, there is still a lot to celebrate and be proud of. 

In the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan, a total of 35 schools won the International School Award organized by the British Council.  

In Gaza, Ghada Krayem, is among the first female students graduating from our award -winning course on solar photovaltic systems at the Gaza vocational Training Center.

In Syria, Majd, Abdallah, Mahmoud, and Wisam, four students from the UNRWA Informatics Club, won the country-wide “Kids and Adolescents Programming Marathon”.  



At a time when UNRWA continues to be under politically motivated attacks, at a time support for the Agency has become a by-product of domestic political consideration, I urge the members of the Arab League:

  • First to help the Agency push back against allegations that seek to undermine the rights of Palestine refugees and
  • Second, to shield the Agency from collateral impact of Member States political decision  

With the war in Ukraine today, food experts and economists are expecting a significative increase in wheat and fuel prices that will make access to food more costly. 

Needs in the region and among Palestine Refugees will increase even more at a time the World’s attention will be on Ukraine.

More than ever, regional solidarity is needed.

The mandate of UNRWA is a common responsibility and the stability of the region is in our common interest.

I hereby appeal to you, members of this council, to scale up your support to Palestine refugees.  

I appeal to you to match the generosity of the countries that host Palestine refugees.

Your support and funding are a seal of confidence that Palestine refugees will wear with a lot of pride. 

Thank you for generously giving me this platform today to continue to call for solidarity with Palestine refugees. 

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

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