Swiss diplomat Pierre Krähenbühl has been appointed commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
In his new position he will be ranked as an under-secretary-general, the second highest position in the UN system, and as such reports directly to the UN General Assembly, the Swiss foreign ministry said.
For ten years Krähenbühl has been director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he was responsible for managing 12,000 employees and activities in 80 countries.
The UNRWA is a UN development aid agency founded in 1949 to carry out assistance programmes for Palestinian refugees. Switzerland provides the agency with annual funding of around CHF20 million ($22 million).
Since joining the UN in 2002, Switzerland has raised its profile in many fields such as international cooperation, sustainable development, human security, human rights and reforms to increase the efficiency of the UN system, the ministry said.
“The appointment of Mr Krähenbühl is a testament to Switzerland’s commitment to the UN and strengthens its presence in the UN’s decision-making bodies,” said the ministry. Appointments of Swiss nationals to high positions are further proof of the UN’s recognition of Switzerland’s commitment, it added.
Krähenbühl is the first Swiss national to work in a top position at the UN since Joseph Deiss ended his term as president of the 65th Session of the General Assembly in September 2011.
The UNRWA provides more than five million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory with basic services such as health care, welfare, education and emergency services.
The Commissioner-General’s Office, which will be headed by Krähenbühl from the beginning of 2014 for a three-year term, is responsible for coordination between UNRWA and the host states, governments of donor countries, other UN bodies and organisations as well as intergovernmental groups.
During the 25 years Krähenbühl has worked in the humanitarian, development and human rights field, he has demonstrated his negotiating skills with a wide range of partners in situations of socio-political transition or armed conflict, the foreign ministry said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies