United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

UNRWA is a humanitarian and human development agency, providing education, healthcare, social services and emergency assistance to over four and half million refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. Through its programmes, UNRWA safeguards and advances the rights of Palestine refugees and thereby achieves its mission of every refugee "feeling assured that his or her rights are being protected, defended and preserved." (UNRWA's Interim Programme Strategy 2008-09). By its programmes, UNRWA contributes to the realization of rights prescribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Palestine refugees. The Agency provides a variety of essential services within the framework of international standards, including primary (and in Lebanon secondary) education, comprehensive primary health care, emergency relief, social interventions, microfinance, housing and infrastructural support. UNRWA's social safety net provides assistance to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees and promotes the self-reliance of women, the elderly, youth and those with disabilities. The micro-finance programme promotes economic development and alleviates poverty by providing credit for enterprise, household consumption and housing needs. The infrastructure and camp improvement programme provides an integrated, participatory and community-based approach to improving the quality of life of camp residents and the living conditions in refugee camps. By providing constant assistance, UNRWA contributes to the welfare and stability in the region. Among United Nations agencies, UNRWA is unique in delivering services directly to refugees. It does so through a staff of over 29,000 people, the majority Palestine refugees themselves.

The mission of UNRWA is to contribute to the human development of Palestine refugees until a durable and just solution is found to the refugee issue and to serve as a global advocate for the protection and care of Palestine refugees. UNRWA was established by General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 as a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly which has vested the Agency with responsibility to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency became operational on 1 May 1950, responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees The General Assembly has widened the scope of UNRWA's mandate in several occasions, for example endorsing UNRWA's provision of emergency assistance to persons displaced by the 1967 and subsequent hostilities (UNGA Resolution 2252 (ES-V) of 4 July 1967), to Palestine refugees affected by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 (UNGA Resolution 37/120 J of 16 December 1982), and to the refugees affected by the strife in the occupied Palestinian territory (UNGA Resolution 43/57 E of 6 December 1988). In line with the IV Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, in particular Section III Article 59, UNRWA also endeavors to provide emergency relief measures and consignments to refugees in need in the oPt. Established as a temporary Agency, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2011.

Peacebuilding is a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development.

  • Community Conflict Resolution
  • Economic Foundations for Growth and Development
  • Employment Generation
  • Gender
  • Human Rights
  • Humanitarian Assistance
  • Humanitarian Protection
  • Physical Infrastructure and Reconstruction

Humanitarian Assistance

UNRWA is the largest provider of education, health and relief services to the Palestine refugee population, enrolling approximately 479,156 pupils in its gender-balanced schools, handling over 9.5 million patient visits annually in its 138 clinics (and one hospital in the West Bank), delivering regular food aid to over 257,000 refugees living in special hardship, and renovating or reconstructing shelters that do not meet minimal standards for habitation or have been destroyed through conflict. UNRWA’s 29,812 staff includes approximately 21,200 teaching staff, 4,200 health staff, and some 700 social workers. Its large skilled workforce and service infrastructure including some 1000 facilities represent key investments in the human development of the refugees, significantly exceeding those of the other international organizations in its areas of operation. Beyond the wide operational capacity UNRWA possesses within this sector, capacity also exists within UNRWA’s programmes to address a range of thematic interventions vital in “short-medium-long term” post-conflict settings, including tolerance, human rights and peaceful conflict resolution educational modules in all UNRWA schools, vocational training, promotion of gender equality through a women’s programme, and psycho-social counseling for youth affected by violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Gaza, where the population is suffering from the adverse political, economic and social conditions UNRWA’s Summer Games that were introduced in 2007 targeting Gazan children and youth contributes to a climate of moderateness. Provision of such humanitarian and human development services, in particular to most vulnerable groups within the refugee community, is widely recognized as essential in contributing to the social and economic wellbeing necessary to sustain peace and in contributing to long-term stability by enabling refugees to participate in local, regional and other labor markets and to become productive members of their communities. Besides its long and medium-term human development objectives, in humanitarian crisis and armed conflict, the Agency’s emergency interventions, and its presence, serve as tangible symbols of the international community’s concern and ultimately contribute to a stable environment.
  • Capacity and development training
  • Direct project implementation
Description of activities
As UNRWA delivers its services directly to beneficiaries its policies, capacity building and project implementation expertise has been largely developed and implemented “in-house”, although in close cooperation with other UN agencies and the host authorities (especially with UNESCO in the education sector and the WHO in the health sector). In 2006, UNRWA began a three-year management reform programme designed to transform and modernize the main institutional components of the Agency: leadership, human resources management, organizational processes, including an overhaul of its information technology and procurement systems, and programme management. A main component of the Organisational Development plan is to identify training and capacity building needs and expertise tailored to the requirements of its programmes to better and more efficiently serve Palestine refugees. Training packages are implemented throughout the Agency on topics of overarching relevance. For example; • Comprehensive and integrated pre-service and in-service teacher training programmes to help future teachers, serving teachers and other educational personnel; • Training activities on implementation of the new school curricula; new educational policies such as the School as a Focus for Development; and human rights and tolerance; • Leadership & Administrative courses for head teachers; • Training on maternal and child health, family planning, non-communicable disease treatment, school health, psycho-social counseling, etc. UNRWA’s Relief and social services programme is establishing a two-year Certified Education Programme (CEP) based on a generalist approach to social work practice. The Agency has also developed an in-house training package on Gender Mainstreaming that includes various modules on gender concepts, gender and development and gender analysis.
Education: UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East and has been the main provider of basic education to Palestine refugees for six decades, achieving full gender equity since the 1960s. UNRWA provides basic education at the elementary and preparatory levels in its five areas of operations, in addition to secondary education in Lebanon. UNRWA implements the school curricula of the host countries and the Palestinian Authority to facilitate access of refugee students to secondary and higher education in government or private schools and higher institutions. Through its eight Technical and Vocational Education and Training centers UNRWA aims at preparing young refugees to have employment opportunities available in the local and regional labor markets and/or pathways to higher education. The Agency’s education programme has also mounted a large emergency compensatory education programme for children in its West Bank and Gaza schools whose educational achievements suffered as a result of the conflict. The Agency also runs an extensive teacher-training programme and a human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance programme integrated within the school’s curriculum. Health: The goal of the health programme is to safeguard and promote the health status of registered Palestine refugees within the Agency’s five areas of operation UNRWA’s Health Programme provides primary health care, physical rehabilitation, psycho-social support and environmental health care services. This includes mother and child health care, ante-natal, post-natal care, family planning, control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, assistance to people with sustained disability (prosthetic devices and rehabilitation), assistance with hospital fees, school health, environmental health (waste disposal), and laboratory services. Specialized interventions, such as mobile health teams, have been developed in the West Bank and Gaza where years of conflict and access restrictions have placed heavy demands on UNRWA. Relief and Social Services: UNRWA’s Relief and Social Services Programme (RSS) provides direct food and cash assistance to the most vulnerable refugees through its Social Safety Net programme as well as shelter rehabilitation and emergency relief. The Programme is responsible for the maintenance, updating and preservation of records and documents of 4.6 million registered refugees and provides financial and technical support to a network of 104 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) targeting women, persons with disabilities, children and youth. RSS also provides credit to vulnerable refugees including women and those with disabilities to improve their living standards and encourage economic self-sufficiency among credit deprived informal sector entrepreneurs. RSS also provided small loans for housing improvement purposes. From its 29,629 Area Staff, Palestine refugees themselves, 26,116 are working in the above-mentioned sectors (approximately 9,008 in Gaza, 6,252 in Jordan, 4,017 in the West Bank, 3,310 in the Syrian Arab Republic, and 2,878 in Lebanon).

Employment Generation

The Agency is by far the largest United Nations operation in the Middle East besides being one of the biggest employers in the region with 99 % of UNRWA staff being locally recruited Palestine refugees. UNRWA services are labour intensive and the majority of staff is directly involved in providing services to their fellow refugees as doctors, teachers, social workers or sanitation labourers. Labour opportunities and thus economic independence for many refugees constitutes a major factor in building a climate of peace in which families can sustain themselves. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA has provided various forms of emergency assistance since October 2000, which has included emergency employment for almost 100,000 Palestinians, mainly refugees. This emergency employment has played a role in mitigating the worst effects of an acute humanitarian crisis which continues to grip the occupied Palestinian territory. The employment has entailed public works (paving of roads and construction of UNRWA facilities in Gaza) as well as skilled short to medium-term employment with the Agency (doctors in the West Bank). UNRWA is the only UN agency that directly provides microfinance services through its own branches. As such, its comparative advantage is deep knowledge of the practicalities of all aspects of microfinance from product development, strategic planning, business plan development, feasibility study, database management, finance and accounts to credit operations management. The main peacebuilding focus of the programme has been working on various poverty-alleviation, job creation and business development services.
  • Capacity and development training
  • Direct project implementation
Description of activities
UNRWA employs Palestine refugees in its five areas of operation (Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan) The emergency employment programme is running in Gaza and the West Bank. The MMP operates in Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. The MSCP operates in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, and nominally in the West Bank and Gaza.
UNWRA is the largest United Nations operation in the Middle East and a large employment generator, with area staff representing 99% of its work force. The Agency currently employs 29,629 Area Staff. UNRWA has established an emergency employment generation programme as a reaction to the increased levels of hardship and despair in Gaza and the West Bank. The aim is to alleviate economic hardship at the household level for refugee families without a breadwinner through the provision of temporary work opportunities. Within this programme, UNRWA will generate over six million days of employment for 87,460 unemployed refugees in Gaza and the West Bank in 2009. UNRWA also conducts an indirect hire programme which provides short-term job opportunities through contracts for small-scale labour-intensive works in refugee camps and villages across the West Bank. In 1991, UNRWA introduced a dedicated income generation programme that subsequently became the Microfinance and Microenterprise Department (MMD). The MMD provides microfinance services to Palestine refugees, and other population within UNRWA’s areas of operation, delivering self-sufficient microfinance through its network of 16 branch offices in the region. Until 2007, it had invested more than US$160 million in over 150,500 microenterprise, consumer and housing loans over the past 17 years. During the 2008-2009, biennium, UNRWA will finance a further 144,060 loans worth US$135 million in a significant expansion of the programme. Through its relief and social services programme, UNRWA conducts the Microcredit Community Support Programme (MCSP), which was introduced as a lending scheme for refugees living in hardship over 20 years ago. It is targeting women, refugees living in special hardship and Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

Physical Infrastructure and Reconstruction

UNRWA has played a central role in developing infrastructure in the 59 refugee camps in its areas of operation (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza ), including power, paving of roads, potable water supply, sewerage, storm water run-off management, and sanitation. An estimated nearly 1.4 million refugees live in these camps. UNRWA’s water, sewerage and sanitation activities have helped controlling, reduce or eliminate communicable diseases associated with poor sanitation. UNRWA’s infrastructural services also provide power, telecommunications, water, transportation, and construction support to about 1000 facilities in the region (offices, clinics, schools, etc.) and directly to the beneficiaries. Through its camp improvement programme, UNRWA established a participatory and integrated approach to community development and urban improvement that aims at improving camp infrastructure and UNRWA installations whilst at the same time strengthening communities and fostering employment and income generation.
  • Direct project implementation
Description of activities
The infrastructure and camp improvement programme provides an integrated, participatory and community-based approach to improving the quality of life of camp residents and the living conditions in refugee camps. This is achieved by coordinating social and physical interventions and by developing housing and infrastructure in ways that promote environmentally sustainable neighbourhoods. In 2006 UNRWA established the Department of Infrastructure and Camp Improvement to ensure the provision of adequate housing and infrastructure for Palestine refugees living in camps. The Department’s programme includes interventions in urban planning, shelter rehabilitation, environmental infrastructure (water supply, sewerage and storm water runoff drainage), sustainable development and livelihood building within a participatory and community-driven approach. The participatory approach of the programme strengthens and empowers the camp community and fosters dialogue and communication among camp residents to solve the immediate problems faced by the community. UNRWA also provides environmental health services in the refugee camps, including water supply in some camps, sewerage and drainage, solid waste management and control of insects and rodents. It develops self-help camp sanitary improvements programmes, provides technical guidance and supervision to such programmes and assesses needs and provides advice on the improvement of sanitary facilities at UNRWA’s schools (numbering 689). The environmental health programme assesses needs for environmental sanitation improvements in most of the 59 refugee camps, helps with preparation of project proposal, and manages financial, human resources and logistics. A Special Environmental Health Programme (SEHP) was established in 1993 in Gaza, where public health is a major concern. SEHP’s activities have been implemented on a larger scale than elsewhere in UNRWA’s areas of operation and include measures to protect Gaza’s seashore from erosion, on which a number of refugee camps are located and waste management. UNRWA’s infrastructure activities sustain its 1000 facilities and the Agency’s ability to deliver essential services to the refugee population. These services help ensure the economic and social well being of vulnerable groups necessary to post-conflict stability in the short to medium term. UNRWA’s physical and human resource assets help refugees adapt to the changing economic, political and social conditions that they have to endure. During 2008 and 2009, UNRWA’s Department of Infrastructure and Camp Improvement will have rehabilitated an estimated 1,723 shelters; set up temporary shelters, schools, clinics and water and sanitation projects covering essential needs for refugees. The Agency, in cooperation with the Government of Lebanon and other partners is now engaged in the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp in Northern Lebanon, where 30,000 refugees were displaced in 2007 due to the conflict that broke out between the Lebanese Army and the multinational militant group Fatah al-Islam. The reconstruction of the camp and its neighbouring areas will contribute to bringing stability to the region.
  • Asia
    • Western Asia
      • Syrian Arab Republic
      • Palestine
      • Lebanon
      • Jordan
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
Palais des Nations, Annexe le Bocage I, Room 92-94
Avenue de la Paix
Geneva CH-1211
United Nations
Gaza and Amman, Jordan
More than 10 years
29,812
Palais des Nations, Annexe le Bocage I, Room 92-94
Avenue de la Paix
Geneva CH-1211
Other

The role of the UNRWA Representative Office in Geneva (ROGVA) is to enhance and ensure the adequate representation of UNRWA (and of Palestine refugees) in Geneva; strengthen the Agency's visibility and interaction with the United Nations System; maintain close contact and, where appropriate, coordinate UNRWA's activities with UN System organizations, Permanent Missions of UN Member States and European Union bodies; and develop and maintain relations with local and international media.

3
Ms
Elena Mancusi Materi
Senior Liaison Officer
Elena Mancusi Materi
Senior Liaison Officer

Network

UN agencies

Type: 
United Nations / IOs
Description: 

UNRWA closely cooperates with UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and other UN agencies within the Country Teams in the Agency’s areas of operations in setting policies, exchanging expertise and coordinating interventions.

Without name

Description: 

UNRWA is an active participant in the CAP processes and other specific networks, such as Child Protection networks, emergency coordination, etc.