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UNRWA Commissioner-General Concludes Visit to Switzerland
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, has completed a visit to Switzerland, during which he met with Vice President of the Federal Council and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Mr. Ignazio Cassis, and held talks with other FDFA senior officials and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), as well as members of parliament. He also officially briefed the Swiss Parliament’s two Foreign Affairs Committees of the National Council and the Council of States, focusing on the humanitarian and socio-economic situation of Palestine refugees in the Middle East, the impact of UNRWA development programmes and emergency assistance, and the Agency’s role as a stabilizing entity for refugees, host states and the region at large.
“I wish to thank Switzerland for the generous support extended to UNRWA and Palestine refugees,” said the UNRWA Commissioner-General. “Discussions with officials in Bern confirmed that both the Foreign Policy goals of Switzerland and the mandate of UNRWA seek to contribute to the empowerment of Palestine refugees to help them break free from dependence on humanitarian assistance. This is even more relevant in the region today, where Palestine refugees need hope and sense of stability in the face of tensions, conflicts, poverty and COVID-19.”
This is the Commissioner-General’s second visit to Switzerland in less than a year and a way for UNRWA to recognize the support it receives from the Confederation. In 2020, Switzerland was ranked the Agency’s sixth largest donor in terms of overall funding to UNRWA, with over US$ 29.5 million in contributions, and approved in 2021 new multi-year funding for the UNRWA core budget, strategic interventions in the area of TVET and job creation and UNRWA reforms.
“Besides Switzerland’s vital financial contribution to UNRWA services for Palestine refugees, we are also immensely grateful for the good cooperation with the Swiss government, including through the SDC in a number or strategic areas, such as protection, resource mobilization and internal reform and change management efforts to modernize services, strengthen UNRWA governance structure and enhance accountability and transparency,” said Commissioner-General Lazzarini.
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 5.7 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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