Thursday, February 18, 2010

UNRWA Com-Gen meets with Hariri

We were supposed to be visited by our new Commissioner General this morning, but unfortunately for us, and hopefully fortunately for Palestinians, he was called back for a meeting with the Chairman of the PLO.

Instead, we were visited by the new Deputy Commissioner General and the UNRWA Spokesman, who gave us some insight into the future strategies of the agency. When asked about how UNRWA would avoid having to give future emergency aid (i.e. protecting refugees against future conflicts like in Nahr el-Bared or Gaza), the spokesman went off on a spiel about UNRWA's commitment to protection, including how in the Commissioner's office there was now a senior protection officer and that advocacy was hugely important to the agency. Basically, he gave a stock standard response, that, while interesting, did not address the question at all. The spokesman really impressed me, because he didn't even take a second to think about the question, he just reeled off a diplomatic response. Convincing if you don't need to know the answer to the question, but useless if you do. CJ Cregg would be proud.

It was encouraging to hear that the Com-Gen had had a meeting with PM Hariri, in which the politician had raised the point of trying to address the issue of giving Palestine refugees access to their right to employment, without prompting from the Com-Gen. One of the major barriers facing these refugees is that they're not allowed to work in a number of professions, like medicine or engineering in Lebanon, unless they're employed by UNRWA. One of the staff then asked if there would be any progress made on the right to land ownership, which is another huge problem. The response was that the focus would firstly be on the right to work, as land rights will be much more of a challenge. Fair enough I suppose, but I'm sure that didn't console the staff much.

What was most useful was the pointing out of the following article published in today's Daily Star, about the meeting the Com-Gen had with PM Hariri yesterday.

Hariri vows to raise funds for Nahr al-Bared
Premier assures top UNRWA official of commitment to completing reconstruction of camp
By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Thursday, February 18, 2010

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri promised to help raise money for rebuilding the war-ravaged Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp by using his connections with wealthy Gulf donors, said United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner General Filippo Grandi after meeting Hariri on Wednesday.

“He said he would use his influence and his contacts to help us raise this money,” Grandi told The Daily Star. “I found his commitment very spontaneous, unprompted by me.

“I was very much encouraged by how determined, precise and concrete the prime minister was.”

Continue reading here...

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