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January 23 2022 7:47 PM ˚
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UNRWA is facing an existential threat — Lazzarini

Planned Thursday strike suspended as agreements reached

3. UNRWA
With the agency still short of funds, UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said the agency is at a “at a very serious crossroads”. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/JNews)
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AMMAN — President of the UNRWA Workers' Union Riad Zigan said the open strike scheduled for Thursday was suspended as several agreements were reached with the employees during the Tuesday meeting of the Advisory Committee.اضافة اعلان

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini, who said that “the agency is targeted and subject to political attacks”, emphasized the agency’s commitment to the protection of refugees and of the rights of the agency’s staff, also stressing that “the agency's most important priority is to maintain all essential services for refugees and to pay the salaries of staff in full".

The problem might not necessarily stop here. According to Lazzarini, “I do not know when we will be able to pay the salaries this month, and this problem will continue next month.” That prompted Zigan to say that Lazzarini’s comments were disappointing to the staff and that the union is still in “work conflict” with the administration.

“We suspended the Thursday strike, and that means we have no other recourse anymore, as the strike was our last card to play,” Zigan said.

Director-General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs Rafik Khirfan said an agreement was reached Tuesday with a pledge by Lazzarini to pay the annual increase owed to the staff retroactively, as of March 31, 2020.

With the agency still short of funds, “due to the decline in support from a number of major donors and despite the fact that the US resumed funding it” under the Biden administration, Lazzarini said UNRWA is “at a very serious crossroads”.

“The agency is experiencing an existential threat due to the unprecedented financial crisis,” said Lazzarini who stressed that funding “helps UNRWA operate in five areas and provide job security to the agency’s employees”.
Khirfan said that regarding the annual leave, “which is a four-month vacation without pay”, the UNRWA commissioner had pledged to find a solution.

“We are seeking to reach a way to solve the crisis,” he said, adding that “we want the employees to be granted their rights, but not through a strike that will harm everyone and is not in the interest of the community.”

Lazzarini said he had appealed to donors to help maintain UNRWA’s vital role in the region, at a time he was forced to tell 28,000 staff members that funds were insufficient to pay their salaries for November and December.
He also reiterated that "Jordan is a main and strategic partner for UNRWA, and plays a very important role because it hosts and serves the largest number of refugees".

According to Zigan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Al-Safadi was actively seeking to find appropriate solutions to UNRWA’s plight.

Safadi and Lazzarini recently took part in the International Ministerial Conference in Support of UNRWA, co-chaired by Jordan and Sweden, in Brussels.

The conference brought together representatives of over 50 UN member states, international and regional organizations, as well as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini, several UN agencies and other institutions. Participants pledged “political and financial support for a modernized UNRWA fit for its times and for taking steps towards a sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding of the agency”.

"The agency's inability to pay salaries has an impact on the services provided to refugees, and the worst that can happen to others is the disruption of services, which fuels frustration, anger, and chaos and makes them feel abandoned by the international community," said Lazzarini, stressing that "Palestinian refugees need UNRWA today more than ever before,” and the agency is “working tirelessly to address the financial crisis that is deepening year after year."

"We need to address the basic services of one of the most fragile societies in the world," said the commissioner, noting that "the year after year weakening of the agency fuels anger and a sense of abandonment by the international community of Palestinian refugees."

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