Remarks by UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini, Ministerial meeting co-hosted by Jordan and Sweden on the margins of the General Assembly High-Level Segment [EN/AR]

“Meeting the General Assembly’s Commitments to UNRWA”

22 September 2022 @13:30-14:45 (New York)

As delivered


Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for your passionate and emotional testimony and advocacy on behalf of Palestine refugees. Thank you for bringing a human face to the plight of Palestine refugees.

Minister Safadi, Minister Linde, your resolute leadership in mobilizing the international community in support of UNRWA has been simply remarkable over the last years.


In the absence of a political horizon, the future of millions of Palestine refugees is at a crossroads.

We are here today, because we all agree that UNRWA plays a unique role in advancing their rights and wellbeing.

We are here to acknowledge the vital contribution of our Agency to regional stability.

And we are here because we all believe that, in the absence of a genuine political solution, UNRWA is irreplaceable in this part of the world.

Today’s meeting is about seeking the path that will finally bring financial sustainability to the Agency.

For 10 years now, we are confronted with the same shortfall. We know how unsettling this is for Palestine refugees, the Host countries and the international community.

This path would factor in the three conflicting pressures under which the Agency operates:

First, the General Assembly’s mandate which requires the Agency to deliver public-like services to one of the most destitute community in the region;

Second, the chronic lack of sufficient voluntary funding from Member States;

and lastly, the inability to change the scope of service delivery because of the deep perception within the communities we serve that any weakening of UNRWA is a further weakening of the rights of Palestine refugees.

Over the last decade, we have explored different avenues to address the chronic underfunding.

We have stepped up fundraising efforts and expanded our donors base. Many are here today.

We have also sought to absorb the underfunding through efficiency and through increasingly draconian austerity measures.

Let me thank here the Secretary-General for referring to the cost-efficiency of the Agency which has been confirmed by different experts.

These measures have now reached their absolute limit.

At the Brussels conference co-hosted by Jordan and Sweden last year, we presented a vision of a modernized Agency with a stable three-year budget as we are highly predictable.

The vision was strongly endorsed but was not followed by additional predictable funding.

Finally, this year, we tried to introduce new ways to partner with UN agencies, but legitimate concerns within the communities in the absence of a political horizon have limited the scope of this effort.


I hope this meeting will lead to a new initiative to secure sustainable funding to the Agency.

To translate the support for the mandate into matching financial resources, political will is required.

At the end of the year the mandate of UNRWA will be up for renewal.

I, therefore, echo the call today of the Secretary-General that you consider options, including through International Financial Institutions, an increase of assessed contributions and greater financial burden sharing.

Today it is crucial that the international community does not turn its back on Palestine refugees. It is time to walk the talk and show Palestine refugees what it means when we commit to safeguarding and advancing their rights.

Thank you.

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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.


Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +962 (0)79 090 0140

Juliette Touma
UNRWA Director of Communications
Mobile: +972 54240 2753
Office: +962-79-867-4628