‘UNRWA is at a Breaking Point’ – Philippe Lazzarini Warns

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has said that  75 years after its creation, the agency’s “ability to fulfill its mandate is seriously threatened.”

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has warned that the agency is “at a breaking point.”

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday, Lazzarini said  “75 years after its creation by this Assembly as a temporary UN entity, pending a just political solution to the question of Palestine, the Agency’s ability to fulfill its mandate is seriously threatened.”

He stressed that the UN’s “urgent action” is needed to facilitate “a political solution that will bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis, and in this context alone, allow the Agency to transition.”

In the meantime, Lazzarini continued, the financial crisis confronting UNRWA “must be resolved so it can continue its lifesaving operations.”

More than 15 countries have suspended funding to the relief agency after Israel alleged some of its employees were involved in the October 7 operation carried out by the Palestinian Resistance.  

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UNRWA immediately terminated the contracts of the staff concerned “in the interest of the Agency,” and an independent panel was commissioned by the UN Secretary-General to investigate the agency.

“Despite these prompt and decisive actions, and the unsubstantiated nature of the allegations, 16 countries have paused their funding, totaling 450 million dollars,” Lazzarini stated.

‘No Capacity’

UNRWA, he emphasized, “has no capacity to absorb financial shocks. Especially while a war rages in Gaza.”

Lazzarini expressed gratitude to those member sates and donors that have maintained or even increased their funding. 

However, he questioned, “for how long?” adding that “it is hard to say. We are functioning hand-to-mouth.” 

Lazzarini warned the Assembly that UNRWA is facing “a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, and ultimately end them.”

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“Operations that are mandated by this Assembly,” he added. 

Lazzarini said part of this campaign involves inundating donors with misinformation designed to foster distrust and tarnish the reputation of the Agency.

“More blatant, is the Israeli Prime Minister openly stating that UNRWA will not be  part of post-war Gaza,” he stressed. 

Lazzarini pointed out that the implementation of this plan is already underway with “the destruction of our infrastructure across the Gaza Strip.”

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Knesset Legislation

Draft legislation in the Israeli Knesset seeks to prohibit outright any activity by UNRWA on Israeli territory, the Commissioner-General said. 

The bill has already passed a preliminary reading and requires three more readings before becoming law.

The UNRWA chief warned that unless “meaningful action” is taken “the entire humanitarian response in Gaza will crumble” in the short term.

He said the “repeated calls by the Government of Israel to eliminate the Agency are not about neutrality,” but “intended to shift the long-standing political parameters for peace in the occupied Palestinian territory set by the General Assembly and the Security Council, without consulting either body.”

He also said it is “a stain on our collective conscience that for 75 years UNRWA has had to fill a vacuum left by the lack of a political solution and a genuine peace.”

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Lazzarini called on the General Assembly to facilitate a “long-overdue political process” to facilitate peace; to ensure the Agency the support it needs from relevant Member States to operate, and “to close the gap between UNRWA’s mandate and funding model.”

The Agency “cannot fulfill the mandate given by this Assembly without matching funding from its members,” he stressed.

He also urged “those Member States that are seeking alternatives to UNRWA to do so in a way that does not compromise Palestine Refugees’ right to self-determination and aspiration to a just and lasting solution to their plight.”

Death Toll Rising

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza since October 7. 

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 30,631 Palestinians have been killed, and 72,042 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7. 

Moreover, at least 7,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip.

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Palestinian and international organizations say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire.’

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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1 Comment

  1. The deliberate targeting and smearing of UN organisations is very worrying. UNRWA funding should be restored immediately.

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