In a first since 2020, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on 28 and 29 January, upon an official invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Longtime Saudi solidarity with Palestine refugees was at the center of discussions with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Waleed ElKhereji, and the Supervisor-General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRC) Dr. Abdallah al Rabeea. A subsequent meeting with His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, focused on the fragility of the situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the worrying escalation.
“The concerning events that are unfolding in the West Bank are a stark reminder that the stability of the region is often hanging by a thread,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “We at UNRWA look forward to working closely with Saudi Arabia, as a strategic partner, on ensuring that the lives of the refugees, particularly children, and youth, continue to be transformed positively through education, health care, and other services that the Agency offers.”
The Commissioner-General acknowledged once again how the much-needed Saudi contribution of US$ 27 million at the end of 2022 was directly allocated to the Agency’s core program budget and helped maintain critical services to Palestine refugees.
In all discussions held during the two-day mission, UNRWA explored, with Saudi officials, ways to cooperate with Saudi entities on youth empowerment and employment. The Commissioner-General emphasized the importance for UNRWA to work with the Kingdom as a strategic partner, particularly in areas where the Agency’s mandate coincides with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, such as youth development and empowerment, as well as promoting regional peace and stability.
“Education and modern-day skills are the best tools that the international community can offer to young Palestine refugees,” said the UNRWA Commissioner-General. “By helping them build their future, we would also be sending them a message that they are not alone. As a historic partner to UNRWA, Saudi Arabia’s support helped build schools and numerous installations that have housed the Agency’s students and services. We are now looking into the future and modernizing, together with our partners, our services to Palestine refugees.”
UNRWA will be participating in the upcoming Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum which will take place in Riyadh on 20 February 2023.