UNRWA-Sweden: High-level consultations and strong strategic partnership – Occupied Palestinian Territory
On Thursday 7 April, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, concluded a two-day visit to Stockholm, during which he held strategic talks with Swedish officials on the longstanding cooperation between UNRWA and Sweden and the way forward.
During his mission, the Commissioner General met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, the Minister for Development Cooperation, Matilda Ernkrans, the Deputy Director General of Sida, Maria Ottosson, as well as senior officials and parliamentarians to make them aware of the current situation. challenges faced by Palestinian refugees.
During the annual high-level consultations on 7 April, Mr Lazzarini and Swedish State Secretary Jenny Ohlsson discussed the Agency’s current financial crisis, the need for flexible multi-year funding and the work of the UNRWA to defend humanitarian principles. Participants stressed that UNRWA programs are crucial for development, stability and security in a highly volatile region. They underscored the relevance of UNRWA’s support to the millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
During his meetings with Minister Linde and Minister Ernkrans, discussions focused on the challenges facing UNRWA, ways to continue to deliver effective and sustainable services and ways to further strengthen the strong partnership with Sweden. .
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said: “I had a good meeting with Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini in Stockholm to follow up on the international conference on UNRWA held last November and co -organized by Sweden and Jordan. UNRWA plays a key role in providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees until a political solution is found, including the refugee issue.
Mr. Lazzarini said: “We are sincerely grateful for Sweden’s unwavering support for the Palestinian refugees, contributing to UNRWA’s services, especially in the areas of health, education, relief and emergency operations. emergency. Sweden’s active engagement and reliable, predictable and flexible support are greatly appreciated at a time when UNRWA faces a chronic mismatch between available funding and needed resources, which contributes to increased instability.
This visit to Stockholm was also an opportunity to meet the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and several other senior officials from Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Sweden is a key financial and political partner of UNRWA. In 2021, Sweden signed a four-year agreement to contribute to the basic services of the Agency for a total value of 2.1 billion SEK (240 million US dollars), which represents an increase of 220 million SEK (25 million US dollars) compared to the previous one-year multi-convention. Likewise, Sweden has been a lead country in chairing UNRWA meetings at ministerial level, such as the 2021 International Conference on UNRWA, co-hosted with Jordan last November.
UNRWA faces an increased demand for services resulting from an increase in the number of registered Palestinian refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their growing poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been exceeded by growing needs. As a result, UNRWA’s program budget, which supports the delivery of basic essential services, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to make every effort to fully fund the Agency’s program budget. UNRWA’s emergency programs and key projects, which also operate with large deficits, 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 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in its five areas of operation. Its mission is to help Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip to realize their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their fate. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.