Switzerland's support for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East: Federal Council approves a contribution of CHF 18.5 million to UNRWA

Bern, 11.12.2015 - At its meeting on 11 December 2015, the Federal Council approved a contribution of CHF 18.5 million to the General Fund of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This financial package will support UNRWA's humanitarian activities and its development assistance to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory in 2016.

Switzerland's contribution will support UNRWA activities including the provision of quality education for half a million children in 685 schools and access to healthcare for almost three million people per year through a network of 137 health centres. The Swiss contribution will also help UNRWA carry out its work to support Palestinian refugees affected by the Syrian conflict and other crises that are besetting the region. UNRWA's services thus provide vital support for Palestinian refugees, who are among the most vulnerable people in the region.

UNRWA has been one of Switzerland's main partners in the Middle East since the agency was founded in 1949. Switzerland plays an active role in UNRWA's governing bodies, in particular its Advisory Commission, whose vice-chairmanship it currently holds and whose chairmanship it will hold in 2016. In light of the chronic underfunding that threatens UNRWA's financial stability, Switzerland also supports the agency's long-term reform process. Since March 2014, UNRWA has been headed by Pierre Krähenbühl of Switzerland.

Set up by the UN General Assembly in 1949, UNRWA is mandated to implement aid programmes for Palestinian refugees in the Middle East pending a just settlement of the refugee issue. In total, UNRWA assists almost five million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, providing them with basic services, in particular in the areas of health, social services, education, microfinance and emergency aid. In a precarious regional context riven by violence and the forced displacement of millions of civilians, UNRWA is a source of hope for Palestinian refugees and plays an important stabilising role for the Near East as a whole.

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