UNRWA Commissioner-General Calls for Support to Prevent Collapse of Agency


The Advisory Commission (AdCom) on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) met on 29-30 November in Amman amidst immense concern over the financial shortfall that the Agency is facing. The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, engaged participants on the risks associated with the financial crisis that the Agency faces and its impact on its ability to maintain services to Palestine refugees. He urgently called on the Agency’s governing body to help him ensure that basic services to Palestine refugees continue in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

“Imagine the immense feeling of abandonment that can come with the disruption of what is probably the only stable lifeline for Palestine refugees,” said the Commissioner-General. “If UNRWA health services are compromised in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rollout will come to a halt. Maternal and childcare will stop. Half a million girls and boys will not know if they can continue learning.”

This meeting of the Advisory Commission comes on the heels of the International Conference on UNRWA that took place last month in Brussels and was chaired by Jordan and Sweden. The conference sought to raise urgent funds to bridge the gap in 2021and to establish a predictable longer term planning scheme for the Agency.

The UNRWA Commissioner-General warned against the impact of chronic underfunding on the quality of critical services such as health, education and social safety net to the most destitute. “Decades of investment in excellent services now risk being reversed. Together, we should not allow a reversal of one of the best investments of the international community in the region.”

The Commissioner-General reiterated his urgent call for all partners to continue their solidarity with Palestine refugees in a way that is sustainable, predictable and long-term, until there is a political solution that includes them. He and his team particularly focused on empowering young people and help them in their journey towards self-reliance.

The Advisory Commission is tasked with advising and assisting the Commissioner-General of UNRWA in carrying out the Agency’s mandate. It meets twice a year, usually in June and November, to discuss issues of importance to UNRWA, striving to reach consensus and provide advice and assistance to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA.

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.

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