The Federal Council approved Switzerland’s continued support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA will receive CHF 20 million annually for the years 2023 and 2024. With these funds, Switzerland is reaffirming its commitment to human development, humanitarian action and regional stability.
Switzerland’s allocation of CHF 20 million per year (CHF 40 million in total) for the period 2023–24 will enable UNRWA to continue operating despite the challenging situation. Switzerland is thereby continuing to exert a positive influence on UNRWA’s policy and working methods. As a member of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, Switzerland is able to advance its priorities. To ensure that UNRWA fulfils its mandate as a UN agency and puts the funds it receives to effective use, Switzerland supports the structural reforms initiated in 2019. Switzerland’s funding for UNRWA will continue to be primarily focused on programmes aimed at providing Palestinian refugees with access to high-quality education, healthcare, social services, microfinance facilities and infrastructure.
A contribution to stability in the Middle East
In the absence of a political solution to the conflict, UNRWA continues to play a key role as a stabilising factor in the region. As the Federal Council recognised in the MENA Strategy 2021–24, instability in the Middle East is not only a significant challenge at the local and international level but also for Switzerland. The long years of blockade and hostilities in the Gaza Strip, the conflict that has raged in Syria since 2011 and the economic crisis in Lebanon are taking a heavy toll on Palestinian refugees. The occupied Palestinian territory and neighbouring countries are bearing the brunt of this situation.
For example, 96% of the Palestinian refugees who are still living in Syria depend on humanitarian aid provided by UNRWA for their survival. Some 60% of these refugees have been displaced from their home districts at least once since the conflict began. In Lebanon, 73% of Palestinian refugees live below the poverty line. The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the situation of Palestinian refugees and poses a new set of challenges for UNRWA.
UNRWA’s key role in creating prospects for young people
UNRWA runs 710 schools that provide nearly 540,000 children with an education. It is thereby creating opportunities and helping to reduce the risk of radicalisation among young people. Recent graduates of UNRWA-certified vocational training programmes are in demand in the regional labour market. After the onset of the covid pandemic, UNRWA took a variety of measures to ensure that children and young people would continue to have access to education, including online learning programmes.
UNRWA also runs 143 primary healthcare centres in the region, providing 3.1 million Palestinian refugees with access to high-quality health services each year. It also provides approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees with a social safety net in the form of food or cash/cash vouchers.