Swiss aid expert to head UN Palestinian refugee agency

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


Swiss humanitarian relief expert Philippe Lazzarini has been appointed to head the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday.

Guterres had recommended Lazzarini to lead the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) earlier this month.

"Mr Lazzarini brings to the position more than thirty years of experience in humanitarian assistance and international coordination in conflict and post-conflict areas," a UN statement said.

Born in 1964, Lazzarini has coordinated the work of the United Nations in Lebanon for the past five years.

His career has taken him to Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the Palestinian territories.

He also has had positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Lazzarini replaces another Swiss national, Pierre Krahenbuhl, who was forced to resign in November 2019 amid accusations of mismanagement.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA runs schools and provides humanitarian aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

It employs 30,000 people, mainly Palestinians, and has an annual budget of $925 million. In December, its mandate was extended until 2023.

The United States and Israel are opposed to the agency, arguing its existence in its present form is no longer justified.

In particular, they oppose rules under which Palestinians can hand down refugee status to their children.

The United States in 2018 halted its annual contribution of $300 million to UNRWA.