Swiss expert tapped to lead UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recommended a Swiss expert in humanitarian affairs to lead the UN agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, a UN source said on Wednesday.

Guterres’ pick for the sensitive UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) post, Philippe Lazzarini, has served as the UN coordinator in Lebanon for the past five years.

He has deep experience in humanitarian relief work in conflict zones, including Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the Palestinian territories.

Lazzarini also held positions with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East.

If approved by the agency’s advisory board, Lazzarini would follow Pierre Krahenbuhl, another Swiss national, who resigned as UNRWA director in November 2019 amid accusations of mismanagement.

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

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

The United States and Israel contend the agency has no reason to exist in its current form, and oppose the Palestinians being allowed to transfer refugee status to their children.

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