Palestinian Gov’t Calls on UNRWA Chief to Protect Rights of Palestine Refugees

Palestinian Gov’t Calls on UNRWA Chief to Protect Rights of Palestine Refugees

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The Palestinian government called on the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, not to do anything that would prejudice the rights of the refugees or transfer UNRWA services to other international organizations.

Addressing the weekly Palestinian cabinet meeting held in Ramallah, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned that such a move, if implemented, would be in violation of UN Resolution 302, under which the Agency was established, and the mandate that defined its responsibilities, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

In a message to Palestine refugees on April 23, UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini, and after talking about the financial difficulties facing the UN agency that included annual shortfalls to the core program budget nearing $100 million over the last years due to a shortage of funds from donor countries, proposed other options to continue providing the services.

“[O]ne must realistically look at the financial forecast and acknowledge that to continue relying almost exclusively on voluntary funding from donors would not be reasonable, given the world and regional dynamics,” Lazzarini said in his message.

“Are there different ways to ensure that the services provided to you continue without the threat of disruption due to UNRWA’s lack of financial resources?” he asked.

“My priority is and remains your continued access to quality services and the protection of your rights and the UNRWA mandate. Within this framework, one option that is currently being explored is to maximize partnerships within the broader UN system. Central to this option is that services could be provided on behalf and under the guidance of UNRWA, and hence strictly in line with the mandate UNRWA received from the UN General Assembly. Such partnerships have the potential to protect essential services and your rights from chronic underfunding.”

Lazzarini, however, stressed, “Let me be clear: there is no handover or transfer of responsibilities and programs on the table, and no tampering with the UNRWA mandate. UNRWA is and remains irreplaceable.”

UNRWA’s plan to transfer responsibilities to other organizations has drawn strong protests from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and refugees in general. Voting at the UN General Assembly on the renewal of the UNRWA mandate is going to take place at the end of this year.

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