UNRWA COMMISSIONER-GENERAL MAKES FIRST VISIT TO INDIA
01 September 2016
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, carried out his first official trip to India this week in order to build stronger relations between the Agency and India.
From 28 to 31 August, the Commissioner-General met with several senior government officials at the Ministry of External Affairs, in particular Shri M. J. Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, and Sujata Mehta, Secretary (West). Also in attendance were Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in New York; Satbir Singh, Joint Secretary of the West Asia and North Africa Division; and Rudendra Tandon from the UN Political Division.
In these meetings, the Commissioner-General expressed appreciation for Indian support to UNRWA and conveyed his determination to strengthen engagement with India, a country which has strong historical ties with the Middle East and links to the issue of Palestine. He sought the views of Indian officials on attempts to improve the situation of Palestine refugees and address the root causes of conflict through diplomatic means.
The Commissioner-General also had several speaking engagements with research centres and universities. He addressed the scholars and students from the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and met with professors from the Centre for West Asian Studies. He also participated in a discussion with several experts and researchers organized by the Observer Research Foundation and in a session hosted by the University Jamia Millia Islamia with its professors and students.
These conferences offered an opportunity to develop a better understanding of India's views on the Middle East and to highlight the challenges and expectations of Palestine refugees, in particular in Gaza and Syria, as well as the Agency’s role and contribution to human development, mainly through education.
Upon concluding his visit, Mr. Krähenbühl stated: “I am deeply encouraged by the meetings held in Delhi and the strong expressions of respect for UNRWA’s work. The commitment by the Government of India to increasing forms of partnership with the Agency is very much appreciated. UNRWA is determined to build on this in coming years to improve its response to the critical needs of Palestine refugees.”
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 96.5 million. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, 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 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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