Recent developments in the Middle East: the plight of Palestine refugees


4 March 2015


Universitaire Stichting (University Foundation), Egmontstraat 11, 1000 Brussels

In cooperation with the Egmont Institute, VIRA is organizing a lunch conference on Wednesday 4 March 2015 with guest speaker Dr. Pierre KRÄHENBÜHL, Commissioner-General of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East).

The conference will be held in English and the debate in French and English.

The dramatic developments in the Middle East and particularly the civil war in Syria and the Gaza conflict, have once again brought the Palestinian question back to spotlight. Since 1950, UNRWA provides assistance to now five million Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (through the provision of daily vital services such as, education, health care, social services, camp infrastructure microfinance, and also emergency aid).

To what extent can this organization, which employs over 30.000 local staff members, still be considered necessary and relevant in a context that so poignantly exposes the vulnerability of these refugees? And how can the European Union play an important role in this difficult and uncertain situation?

The conference will take place on Wednesday 4 March 2015 at 12h30 at the Universitaire Stichting (University Foundation), Egmontstraat 11, 1000 Brussels (Metro: Trone/Troon).

An aperitif will be served at 12h00, followed by a sandwich lunch.


To participate please register before Friday evening 27 February 2015 by

–          an email to or a telephone to Mr Lieven Vermote (02 672 92 49) and

–          a bank transfer to the VIRA bank account (IBAN BE87) 430-0740601-94 of 25 € for Members of VIRA, of 30 € for non-members and of 12 € for full-time students.

Any cancellations are to be communicated no later than Monday 2 March at noon.




 Pierre Krähenbühl

Appointed by the Secretary-General in November 2013, Pierre Krähenbühl became Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees on 30 March 2014. As Commissioner-General, he serves at the level of Under-Secretary-General.


A Swiss national born in 1966, Mr. Krähenbühl has 25 years of experience in humanitarian, human rights and development work.


Prior to joining UNRWA, he served as Director of Operations in the International Committee of the Red Cross from July 2002 to January 2014, responsible for the conduct, management and supervision of 12,000 ICRC staff working in 80 countries. In this position, he directly oversaw that organization’s response to conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Colombia and Lybia, among others. He led senior-level negotiations with a range of governments, armed forces and other groups to secure access to conflict-affected populations.


Mr. Krähenbühl’s experience also includes diverse and demanding field assignments in places experiencing profound social change and armed conflict, including El Salvaldor, Peru and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The father of three boys, he holds a BA in Political Sciences and International Relations from the University of Geneva.


On assuming the post of UNRWA Commissioner-General, Mr. Krähenbühl said “The momentous events across the region are having a profound impact on the lives of UNRWA beneficiaries who are facing one of the most serious protection crises in their history. This presents a challenge which I shall embrace with determination, realism and humility”.