OFID and UNRWA Exhibit Celebrates ‘Space, Time, Dignity, Rights’ of Palestine Refugees

29 January 2014


The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) celebrates the thirty-eighth anniversary of its establishment with an exhibition about community-driven planning projects in Palestine refugee camps. Entitled ‘Space, Time, Dignity, Rights – Improving Palestinian Refugee Camps’, the exhibition, at OFID headquarters in Vienna, is being co-hosted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). 

‘Space, Time, Dignity, Rights,’ which will run until 13 February 2014, highlights projects in several Palestine refugee camps across the Middle East where residents have developed and implemented their own visions for improving their living conditions. The exhibition provides insight into a new culture of planning that has emerged and fundamentally influenced all those involved. The result is a radical redefinition of what constitutes a ‘refugee camp’, from being a space associated with victimization to one where inhabitants can and should live in dignity.

Opening the exhibition, OFID Director-General Suleiman J. Al-Herbish paid tribute to UNRWA as a “guest of honour” in acknowledgement of its long-standing commitment to Palestine refugees during its more than six decades of operation.  Mr. Al-Herbish also spoke of the relationship between UNRWA and OFID, which spans over 35 years. “I am confident that our partnership will be as enduring as olive trees are in Palestine,” he said, referring to a tree planted by UNRWA in honour of OFID and its support to UNRWA human development and humanitarian work with Palestine refugees. 

In his opening statement, Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said: “OFID is a model partner supporting some of our most innovative and creative projects, of which this exhibition gives inspirational examples. Our camp improvement initiatives have given voice to some of the most disadvantaged in the Middle East, giving them a say in that which is most fundamental: how they live their lives. I want to reiterate our sincere gratitude to OFID and Mr. Al-Herbish, the Director-General, personally, for all the support.”

Also in attendance were senior officials from the Government of Austria and international organizations, and heads of missions based in Vienna, including 
HE Salahaldin Abdalshafi, Ambassador of Palestine in Austria, who also addressed the audience during the opening. 


OFID started cooperation with UNRWA in 1979 and has since provided more than US$ 30 million in grant support, representing nearly one quarter of the US$ 146 million total financing that OFID has provided to some 500 operations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Lebanon.  In addition to its traditional support to education, vocational training, emergency relief and humanitarian aid programs, OFID expanded its collaboration with UNRWA through the establishment of the PalFund in 2004, which aims at extending small loans to productive entrepreneurs and artisans for income growth. Through the PalFund, over 60,000 loans, worth close to US$ 87 million, have been extended to citizens in West Bank and Gaza.

About OFID

OFID is a multilateral development finance institution established in 1976 by the Member States of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The primary aim of OFID is to contribute to the social and economic development of low-income countries. By the end of December 2013, OFID had committed a cumulative US$ 16.6 billion in development financing to 134 countries spread across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

For more information please visit: www.ofid.org

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 US$ 100 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724
Reem Aljarbou
+431 515 64 291
+431 515 64 291