UNRWA Commissioner-General Recalls Unresolved Plight of Palestine Refugees on 75th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

10 December 2022
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

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The United Nations Agency Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today celebrates Human Rights Day, which this year marks the start of a year-long campaign to promote and recognize the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2023 under the umbrella of “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All”.  

“The 75-year anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2023 will also mark 75 years of displacement for millions of Palestine refugees and their descendants, says UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.   “Many of them live without human rights protections in the absence of a just and lasting solution to their plight, to which they are entitled,” he adds.

Protection, based on the enjoyment of human rights, is part of the core UNRWA mandate, alongside the assistance and services it provides to Palestine refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.   These services include quality education, primary health care for all, social services, camp improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance in times of crises, all with the aim to help Palestine refugees achieve their full human potential. 

In May 2012, the Agency endorsed its  flagship Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Policy to  strengthen human rights education in its schools.  The vision is to empower Palestine refugee students to enjoy and exercise their rights, uphold human rights values, be proud of their Palestinian identity, and contribute positively to their society and global community.   This policy promotes non-violence, healthy communications skills, peaceful conflict-resolution, human rights, tolerance and good citizenship, greatly enriching the Agency’s overall education programme.   

Established in 1949, the Agency continues to operate to date.    However, UNRWA was never meant to operate for decades or replace state protections and there are limits to the support that the Agency can provide, including when it comes to the legal status of Palestine refugees that impacts on virtually all of their human rights. Urgent solutions through international solidarity are needed. 

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains as relevant as ever to Palestine refugees in its demand that human rights protections be extended to all, including the most vulnerable. Palestine refugees should not have to wait another 75 years to enjoy dignity, basic human rights and justice,” says Commissioner-General Lazzarini.

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Notes to Editors


  • Human Rights Day annually recognizes the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. 
  • UNRWA was established in 1949 to alleviate conditions of starvation and distress of this population following their displacement and dispossession as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict pending a just and durable solution to their plight. 
  • There are currently 5.9 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA.  
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.