Following his appointment by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in November 2013, Pierre Krähenbühl assumes office today as the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Mr. Krähenbühl has devoted 25 years to humanitarian, human rights and development work, with experience in challenging field environments as well as in senior leadership positions. For the past 12 years, he has served as Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Looking forward to his term in office, Mr. Krähenbühl said: “It is an honour to lead an Agency which plays a crucial role in the Middle East at this time, serving such an important population. The momentous events across the region are having a profound impact on the lives of UNRWA beneficiaries who are facing one of the most serious protection crises in their history. This presents a challenge which I shall embrace with determination, realism and humility.”
Mr. Krähenbühl began his tenure as ICRC Director of Operations in July 2002, supervising 12,000 staff operating in 80 countries and helping the organization respond to armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among others. Between 1991 and 1998, he undertook field assignments for ICRC, in places including El Salvador, Peru, Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In his statement announcing Mr. Krähenbühl’s appointment, the Secretary-General highlighted his “wealth of experience and dedicated passion in humanitarian, development and human-rights action, coupled with strategic leadership experience in politically sensitive and high-risk environments.” The Secretary-General also expressed his gratitude to the outgoing Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, for his “leadership in the implementation of UNRWA’s mandate and outstanding dedication and commitment to the Palestinian people.”
Mr. Krähenbühl, a Swiss national, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences and International Relations from the University of Geneva. He is married with three sons.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.
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