(From left) UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini with Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, Germany. (2020 Photo by Photothek.de/Thomas Trutschel)
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, concluded a four-day visit to Berlin, his first European visit since his appointment as Commissioner-General of the Agency.
UNRWA said in a press release that the visit, between 6-9 October aimed to further strengthen the strategic partnership between UNRWA and the Federal Republic of Germany, through a series of high-level meetings.
Lazzarini met with Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, Minister of State, Niels Annen, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr. Maria Flachsbart and at the Chancellery Director General of the Foreign Security and Development Policy Department, Dr. Jan Hecker, as well as high-level officials from several ministries.
In all his meetings, Lazzarini reiterated how critical support from Germany enables the Agency to maintain its vital services to Palestine refugees.
Lazzarini was also invited to brief members of the following Parliamentary Committees: Budget, Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, and Economic Cooperation and Development. In addition, he met with various Bundestag political groups, including the Parliamentarian’s Group on Arabic-speaking countries of the Near and Middle East, as well as with Dr. Khouloud Daibes, Ambassador of Palestine to Germany and engaged with representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches, civil society organizations, academia and media.
These meetings were an opportunity for Lazzarini to discuss the humanitarian and operational situation in the Agency’s five fields of operations, specifically highlighting how UNRWA continues to respond to COVID-19, as well as the question of Palestine refugees in the region more broadly.
Lazzarini also reminded his interlocutors of the Agency’s precarious financial situation and the need for sufficient, sustainable and more predictable funding for its operations in support of the well-being, human development and protection of more than 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in the region.
For UNRWA, Germany is an important and strategic partner. The Government of Germany was the Agency’s largest donor in 2019 contributing more than EUR 152 million towards UNRWA operations. Since 2005 Germany has been a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission, which is tasked with assisting the Agency in carrying out its mandate. In recent years, Germany has continuously increased its commitment to UNRWA and considerably expanded its financial and technical cooperation across the board. Germany has pledged EUR 161 million in funds so far in 2020.