Response to article in Commentary Magazine

27 March 2011

Dear Mr Tobin,

Your article headlined “UN organisation erases Holocaust from Palestinian textbooks in Jordan” is based entirely on an article in the Jordan Times which erroneously quotes the UNRWA Director of Operations in Jordan. The UNRWA Director in Jordan made none of the statements attributed to her by the paper, indeed she did not speak to the paper at all, and the arguments that flow from these quotes are without foundation.

In 2008, UNRWA introduced into Grades 2 to 6 of its schools in Gaza a human rights curriculum based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The teaching of this curriculum continues, benefiting some 165,000 refugee children each year. The introduction of the UDHR-based curriculum was preceded by a consultation process with teachers, parents, students and the community.

UNRWA is now developing a UDHR-based curriculum for Grades 7 to 9, part of which will address the historical context that preceded the promulgation of the UDHR. Our Gaza Field Office has initiated the necessary consultations as an essential part of the process of development.

UNRWA remains determined to succeed in its efforts to promote through its schools a sound understanding of the UDHR, as well as the rights and responsibilities it enshrines. Our initiative in this regard complements and builds upon a project inaugurated over ten years ago and which integrates the values of human rights, peaceful conflict resolution and tolerance into UNRWA schools in all the areas in which we operate.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesman

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at more than US$ 106  million.

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