UNRWA Commissioner-General Highlights Dire Situation of Palestine Refugees on Official Trip to Switzerland

10 June 2022
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini meets with State Secretary of Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Livia Leu in Bern, Switzerland. © 2022 UNRWA Photo

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 State Secretary of Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Livia Leu, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) senior officials, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and members of parliament to highlight the critical needs of Palestine refugees and the key role of Switzerland’s support to the Agency.

Following his meeting with the Swiss State Secretary in Bern, Mr Lazzarini said: "We are thankful for Switzerland's substantial support to UNRWA education, healthcare and social services. This is crucial in the face of conflicts, COVID-19, poverty, and rising food prices. Young Palestine refugees crave a better future: they want to be well trained, find good jobs, and fulfil their dreams. Our strong partnership with Switzerland promotes youth empowerment through vocational education and training programmes (TVET).”

State Secretary Leu emphasized the importance of the stability of UNRWA for the region and expressed her concerns regarding the looming challenges to food security due to the war in Ukraine.

On 9 June, UNRWA Commissioner-General also met Head of Humanitarian Aid of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Manuel Bessler, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) senior officials, and members of parliament. Mr Lazzarini briefed them on the current challenges facing Palestine refugees, the impact of Switzerland's support to UNRWA's development programmes and emergency assistance and the Agency’s contribution to stability in the region.

In 2021, Switzerland was ranked the Agency’s seventh largest donor in terms of overall funding to UNRWA, with over US$ 31.6 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. 

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 5.7 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.

For more information, please contact:

Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
+962 (0)79 090 0140