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UN Secretary-General Names Lazzarini to Head UNRWA
Philippe Lazzarini, then deputy UN special coordinator for Lebanon, speaks at the International Peace Institute's Trygve Lie Center, December 2017. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

UN Secretary-General Names Lazzarini to Head UNRWA

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday named Philippe Lazzarini, the deputy UN special coordinator for Lebanon, to head the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Lazzarini has more than 30 years of experience in providing humanitarian assistance in conflict zones for the UN, which he joined in 2003, and before that for the International Committee for the Red Cross and the private sector. Lazzarini succeeds acting UNRWA chief Christian Saunders, who took over in November 2019 when its previous commissioner-general, Pierre Krähenbühl, resigned in disgrace. UNRWA has been rocked by scandal that began when Krähenbühl and other senior officials were accused in a UN ethics office report of “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority.” The US responded to the reports and to accusations of Hamas influence on UNRWA institutions by slashing the agency’s funding, leading to a deep financial crisis. UNRWA was established to aid refugees who were displaced during the 1947-1948 conflict between Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine and between Israel and neighboring countries following the Jewish state’s 1948 declaration of independence. It provides education, health care, food and other services to 5.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

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