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UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini Looks at UK for Sustained Support to the Agency
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, concluded a high-level two-day visit to the United Kingdom (UK), his first since his appointment as UNRWA Commissioner-General. The purpose of the visit was to update British stakeholders on the Agency’s financial standing, at a time when UNRWA is facing one of its greatest political and financial challenges.
During the visit, Mr. Lazzarini met with Minister for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Mr. James Cleverly and several Members of Parliament, including Flick Drummond; Shadow Minister of State for MENA, Wayne David; Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford; Liberal Democrats Spokesman in the House of Lords, Lord Purvis; and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat. Mr. Lazzarini also addressed members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Palestine, and the APPG on the United Nations, which was chaired jointly by Julie Elliott and Lord Hannay. The UNRWA Commissioner-General also met with H.E. Ambassador Dr. Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK, as well as representatives from INGOs and civil society organizations.
Throughout his meetings, Mr. Lazzarini focused on the latest developments in the Middle East region and the stabilizing role that UNRWA plays amidst conflicts, crises and the pandemic and reiterated the urgent need to ensure that the Agency receives sustainable and predictable funding. Mr. Lazzarini also emphasized the importance of continued strong UK support to UNRWA and amidst dramatic funding reductions, restoring UK funding back to previous levels. At the centre of many exchanges in London was Mr. Lazzarini’s confirmation that UNRWA attaches the highest importance to the principles and values of the United Nations, including neutrality and non-discrimination.
“Historically, the UK has consistently been amongst the top donors to UNRWA and one of its strongest advocates,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “In doing so, the UK has contributed directly to the education, health care and social support to millions of refugees. I call on the UK to continue its leading role, both politically and financially, for the stability that this role helps maintain in an otherwise volatile region.”
The meetings also provided an opportunity for Mr. Lazzarini to discuss the humanitarian and operational context within which UNRWA operates across its five fields of operation.
The current mission came in the context of a dramatic decrease in the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GNI, which affects all humanitarian and development partners. Contributions to UNRWA this year have decreased 60 per cent compared with 2018 levels.
Historically, the UK has been a strong political and financial supporter of UNRWA and has consistently been amongst the top-five donors (3rd overall in 2020) providing predictable support through multiyear funding to the Agency’s core budget, as well as consistent support to the UNRWA Emergency Appeals.
The UK has been an active member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission since 1949. Over the past 70 years, the UK has continued to provide strong political and financial support to UNRWA. The UK has provided predictable funding to UNRWA through a 2016-21 multiyear funding agreement, that now has been extended until 31 March 2022. The UK’s funding was over US$ 92.7 million in 2018, US$ 76.2 million in 2019, and US$ 64.1 million in 2020. In 2021 the confirmed contribution so far is US$ 39.1 million.
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.
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