UNRWA Commissioner-General in Moscow to meet officials over Russian role

11 June 2021

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, visited Moscow on 9 June for a series of high-level meetings to strengthen the Agency’s strategic relationship with the Russian Federation. 

During his first official visit to Moscow, Mr. Lazzarini met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Sergey Vershinin and with the chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Mr. Konstantin Kosachev. In both meetings, discussions included a briefing by UNRWA about the latest developments in Gaza after the conflict of last month. Russian officials also engaged the Commissioner-General on strategic issues related to the stabilizing role of UNRWA, including its role in contributing to an environment conducive to a resumption of peace discussions. In all his meetings, the UNRWA Commissioner-General reiterated the urgent need to ensure that the Agency remains financially steady and politically supported. He thanked Russia for its commitment towards UNRWA through a multiyear agreement and called on the Federation to renew it and strengthen it in 2022 as it expires at the end of this year.

“Russia’s political support to UNRWA is key to helping the Agency stay on the world agenda in fora like the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, BRICS and others, said the UNRWA Commissioner-General. It is very important to have such a partner in places where it can help the Agency mobilize further support, both political and financial.”

Mr. Lazzarini described the efforts underway to position UNRWA as a key player in the reconstruction efforts in Gaza after the conflict. With its widescale architecture in Gaza, UNRWA can quickly rehabilitate its own facilities to receive and provide critical services to Palestine refugees. Across the region, health, education, social and other services contribute a sense of normality to the lives of refugees and help ease their distress and despair.

“In a region rife with crises, how do you minimize trauma, fear of the other and even hatred?” asked Mr. Lazzarini. “By providing quality services, such as education and promoting values that help shape young minds and prepare them for the future, UNRWA can contribute to stability and can help counter hatred and discrimination,” he noted.

These meetings were an opportunity for Mr. Lazzarini to discuss the humanitarian and operational situation in the Agency’s five fields of operations, specifically highlighting how the UNRWA continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Lazzarini also reminded his interlocutors of the Agency’s precarious financial situation and the need for sufficient, sustainable and more predictable funding for its operations, and the need to diversify its sources.

“Until the plight of Palestine refugees is resolved through a just and lasting solution, the international community is responsible for their wellbeing and must continue to support them through UNRWA by sharing the financial price,” said the Commissioner-General.

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 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years. UNRWA helps them 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.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+962 (0)79 090 0140