Karen AbuZayd, recently retired commissioner general of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) will speak on the plight and promise of refugees in the Middle East. Ms. AbuZayd was appointed commissioner general by Kofi Annan in 2005. From her base in Gaza, she helped oversee the education, health, social services, and micr-enterprise programs for 4.6 million Palestinian refugees.
Before joining UNRWA, Ms. AbuZayd worked for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She began her humanitarian career in Sudan in 1981, dealing with Ugandan, Chadian, and Ethiopian refugees fleeing from war and famine. From Sudan, she moved to Namibia in 1989 to help coordinate the return of apartheid-era refugees, a repatriation which led to elections and independence.
In her distinguished UN career, Ms. AbuZayd oversaw emergency and repatriation services for UNHCR in Namibia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Somalia and South Africa. She also served as UNHCR Chief of Mission in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.
Ms. AbuZayd was awareded the 2010 Spanish/Catalonia Peace Prize for her work, highlighting the achievements of UNRWA's education programs.