UNRWA Commissioner-General visit to Brussels - EU and UNRWA Strategic Partnership Turns 50

02 July 2021
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, completed a four-day visit to Brussels on 1 July 2021. The visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of the strategic partnership between the European Union (EU) and UNRWA.

“Fifty years of EU-UNRWA partnership comes with immense pride for the Agency in having such a solid and principled counterpart, and much relief to Palestine refugees in knowing that they have that support,” said Lazzarini. “It also comes with a very sad realization of the unresolved plight of Palestine refugees. Thanks to EU support, critical services such as health and education and many more will continue to empower Palestine refugees and prepare them to be the citizens of tomorrow, the day when there is a just and last solution that includes them.”

The meetings that Commissioner-General Lazzarini held at the European Parliament, including exchanges with key Parliamentary Committees and Groups, focused on the latest developments in the Near East and the stabilizing role that UNRWA plays amidst conflicts, crises and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the centre of many exchanges in Brussels was Lazzarini’s confirmation that UNRWA attaches the highest importance to the principles and values of the United Nations, including neutrality and non-discrimination. 

During a meeting between Lazzarini and the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, the discussion focused on the importance of continuing the long-standing partnership between the EU and UNRWA. Lazzarini also discussed the Agency’s crippling budgetary constraints and the operational challenges it faces the ground, particularly in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria with the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, and with the Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn.

Lazzarini also had conversations with the Cabinets of the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, as well as the Secretary General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino.

“The reliable support and principled positions of the EU and its different institutions towards Palestine refugees has been key to making refugees feel they are not abandoned,” said the UNRWA Commissioner-General. “Fifty years of partnership are also fifty years of the EU setting high standards that UNRWA continues to meet in terms of efficiency, impact, and the promotion of UN values and principles. We are committed to continue doing so until there is a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.”


Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to millions of Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

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:

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