The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, visited Moscow on 9 June for a series of high-level meetings to strengthen the Agency’s strategic relationship with the Russian Federation.
During his first official visit to Moscow, Lazzarini met with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Vershinin and with the chairman of the international affairs committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev.
In both meetings, discussions included a briefing by UNRWA about the latest developments in Gaza after the conflict of last month. Russian officials also engaged the Commissioner-General on strategic issues related to the stabilizing role of UNRWA, including its role in contributing to an environment conducive to a resumption of peace discussions.
In all his meetings, the UNRWA Commissioner-General reiterated the urgent need to ensure that the Agency remains financially steady and politically supported. He thanked Russia for its commitment towards UNRWA through a multiyear agreement and called on the Federation to renew it and strengthen it in 2022 as it expires at the end of this year.
“Russia’s political support to UNRWA is key to helping the Agency stay on the world agenda in fora like the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, BRICS and others, said the UNRWA Commissioner-General. It is very important to have such a partner in places where it can help the Agency mobilize further support, both political and financial.”
Lazzarini described the efforts underway to position UNRWA as a key player in the reconstruction efforts in Gaza after the conflict. With its widescale architecture in Gaza, UNRWA can quickly rehabilitate its own facilities to receive and provide critical services to Palestine refugees. Across the region, health, education, social and other services contribute a sense of normality to the lives of refugees and help ease their distress and despair.
“In a region rife with crises, how do you minimize trauma, fear of the other and even hatred?” asked Lazzarini. “By providing quality services, such as education and promoting values that help shape young minds and prepare them for the future, UNRWA can contribute to stability and can help counter hatred and discrimination,” he noted.
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 the UNRWA continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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, and the need to diversify its sources.
“Until the plight of Palestine refugees is resolved through a just and lasting solution, the international community is responsible for their wellbeing and must continue to support them through UNRWA by sharing the financial price,” said the Commissioner-General.