UNRWA Commissioner-General resigns

08 November 2019

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General, Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, informed United Nations Secretary-General on Wednesday that he would be resigning from his post effective immediately.

Secretary-General António Guterres thanked Mr. Krähenbühl for his commitment and dedication to UNRWA and to Palestine refugees. The Secretary-General also reiterated his appreciation to UNRWA for its excellent work, which he described as being essential to the well-being of Palestine refugees.

Acting Deputy Commissioner-General Mr. Christian Saunders was named Officer-in-Charge of UNRWA until such time as a new Commissioner-General is selected and appointed.

“I first came to UNRWA 30 years ago as a young professional working in Gaza during the first intifada,” said Mr. Saunders. “I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead the Agency through this challenging period.”

With over three decades of international affairs experience, Mr. Saunders’ work has mostly focused on delivering results and oversight of major reforms leading to improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Prior to his appointment to UNRWA, Mr. Saunders served as the Assistant Secretary-General, Office of Central Support-Services in the United Nations Department of Management and as the Assistant Secretary-General for Supply Chain Management in the United Nations Department of Operational Support.

Over the past several months UNRWA has undertaken a review to reflect upon areas in which the Agency can improve. The Agency has also reviewed reforms that Secretary-General Guterres enacted at the UN Secretariat, with the aim of integrating these initiatives into the Agency’s management practices. These initiatives reflect and support the Secretary-General’s priority areas of focus including finance, human resources and communications. This also includes an emphasis on effective delivery of mandates, through delegated authority and the enhanced accountability it requires. As the Agency’s management initiatives move forward, so too does its commitment to greater empowerment and accountability in results-driven service delivery. This combined approached will be indispensable to the success of fulfilling its mandate going forward. 

“At this time, it is vital for the international community to support UNRWA and the assistance and protection it provides,” said Mr. Saunders. “UNRWA management and staff are committed to ensuring that the crucial work performed by the Agency in the areas of education, health, relief and social services and microfinance continue uninterrupted.”

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 5.4 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:

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