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UNRWA is a UN development aid agency which was founded by the UN General Assembly in 1949 to carry out assistance programmes for Palestine refugees. It provides over 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory with basic services such as health care, welfare, education and emergency services.
The Commissioner-General’s Office, which will be headed by Pierre Krähenbühl at the beginning of 2014 for a three-year term, is responsible for coordination between UNRWA and the host states, governments of donor countries, other UN bodies and organisations as well as intergovernmental organs. The UNRWA commissioner-general is ranked as an under-secretary-general, the second highest in the UN system, and as such reports directly to the UN General Assembly.
Pierre Krähenbühl has been ICRC director of operations for the last ten years and responsible for managing 12,000 employees and ICRC activities in 80 countries. During his 25-year commitment in the humanitarian, development and human rights field, Mr Krähenbühl has demonstrated his negotiating skills with a very wide range of partners in situations of sociopolitical transition or armed conflict.
Switzerland provides UNRWA with annual funding of around CHF 20 million. The appointment of Mr Krähenbühl is a testament to Switzerland’s commitment to the UN and strengthens its presence in the UN’s decision-making bodies. Since joining the UN in 2002, Switzerland has raised its profile in many fields such as international cooperation, sustainable development, human security, human rights and reforms to increase the efficiency of the UN system.