Space, Time, Dignity, Rights: Improving Palestine refugee camps

26 April 2012

26 April 2012
Berlin / Jerusalem

Between international politics and everyday life, transition and continuity, waiting room and home. Against the backdrop of these contradictions, today, roughly one-third of the nearly five million Palestine refugees served by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

Over a period of more than 60 years, temporary tent cities have developed into complex living environments, some of which rank among the densest urban environments in the world. Congested and poverty-stricken, they reflect the extraordinary resilience and agency of the refugees who inhabit them. The exhibition, which will be shown at Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ) from 9 May to 3 June 2012, not only displays the projects of the infrastructure and camp improvement programme of UNRWA, but provides insights into a new culture of joint planning with refugees which has emerged and fundamentally influenced all those involved.

Motivated by a sense of urgency with regard to the extreme poverty, congestion, and deteriorating environment embodied by many refugee camps, UNRWA and host governments met with representatives of refugees and the donor community for the 2004 Geneva Conference in order to target worsening living conditions in camps. UNRWA used the new window of opportunity created by the Geneva Conference to set up the infrastructure and camp improvement programme (ICIP) in order to engage with these issues.

Since 2007, BMZ has supported UNRWA with the development of this programme. This involves improving, in a holistic, methodical and comprehensive manner, the refugee camps’ physical and social environment through the introduction of a participatory, community-driven planning approach. The Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is advising UNRWA ICIP with this innovative methodology on behalf of BMZ.

The exhibition “Space, Time, Dignity, Rights” includes four installations that give insight into how participants in camp improvement projects in the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon seek to balance their refugee identity and political rights with their day-to-day needs as residents of congested and impoverished camps. In this process, they deal with questions such as:

  • Should refugee camps have public spaces?
  • Is the sense of belonging to a street or neighbourhood within a refugee camp an identity worth preserving?
  • How can individual choices be balanced vis-à-vis the interest of the entire refugee community—including the right to refuse to participate in camp improvement?

The result is a radical reconceptualisation of what constitutes a “refugee camp”. Rather than being a space associated with structural discrimination, it is considered a space where inhabitants can and should live with dignity - which goes hand in hand with the international community‘s continued support of Palestine refugees until their plight is solved in a just and lasting manner, in accordance with UN resolutions.

The exhibition, which will be shown at Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ from 9 May to 3 June 2012, will be officially opened by Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, and Filippo Grandi, UNRWA Commissioner-General, on 8 May at 7:00 p.m. The event will also include a panel discussion.

On the following day, 9 May 2012, the exhibition’s topic will be further explored during an all-day academic conference, organised in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, Chair of International Urbanism. Internationally-renowned academics, development experts and representatives of United Nations organisations and the German government have been invited to reflect upon the methodology of the infrastructure and camp improvement programme. Refugee camp urbanisation in an international context as well as participatory planning approaches will be discussed by experts such as Michel Agier (EHESS), Patrick Coulombel (Emergency Architects), Mannoucher Lolachi (UNHCR) and Dania Rifai (UN Habitat).

This exhibition has been made possible by the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) / Regional Social and Cultural Fund for Palestinian Refugees and Gaza Population. Curatorial director of the exhibition is Prof. Philipp Misselwitz, University of Stuttgart, Chair of International Urbanism. Co-operation partner is the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ) in Berlin.

For more information about the exhibition in general, the opening event and the academic conference, please visit: www.space-time-dignity-rights.com

Basic information

Opening hours
9 May 2012 – 3 June 2012
Wed – Sun 2:00 – 7:00 pm
Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Köpenicker Str. 48/49, 10179 Berlin

Opening Event
8 May 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Köpenicker Str. 48/49, 10179 Berlin

Conference
9 May 2012, 9:30 a.m.
Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Köpenicker Str. 48/49, 10179 Berlin

If you would like to attend the Opening Event or participate in the Conference, please send an email to space-time-dignity-rights@daz.de by 2 May 2012

www.space-time-dignity-rights.com

Photos

Below is a selection of photos to be displayed at the exhibition. Photographers have agreed to reproduction of photos by media outlets for the purpose of this exhibition.

View over Dheisheh refugee camp, West Bank / Armin Linke
Over the last 60 years, Palestine refugee camps have developed from temporary tent cities into complex living environments.

Narrow alleyway in Burj Barajneh refugee camp, Lebanon / Ismail Sheikh Hassan
Many Palestine refugee camps have turned into densely populated, hyper-urbanised settings.

Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, Lebanon / UNRWA Archives
In 2007, Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon was destroyed during a three-month conflict between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the militant group Fatah Al-Islam. At least 27,000 refugees were forced to flee and abandon their homes.

Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, Lebanon / UNRWA Archives
Residents of the destroyed Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon discuss the reconstruction of the camp with architects and urban planners.

Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, Lebanon / UNRWA Archives
Residents of the destroyed Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon discuss the reconstruction of the camp with architects and urban planners.

Talbieh refugee camp, Jordan / UNRWA Archives
Children play on a self-made swing in Jordan’s Talbieh refugee camp.

Talbieh refugee camp, Jordan / UNRWA Archives
Children from Talbieh refugee camp in Jordan develop the design of their new play space with architects.

Talbieh refugee camp, Jordan / UNRWA Archives
In Talbieh camp, camp improvement included the installation of a playground based on a design developed with children. Images show the space before and after the installation.

Talbieh refugee camp, Jordan / UNRWA Archives   
Film students trained by GIZ  exhibit their work in an empty shelter.

Talbieh refugee camp, Jordan / GIZ Archives
Film students, trained by GIZ for a participatory camp improvement project focusing on heritage and culture, exhibit their work in the streets of Talbieh refugee camp.

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$ 56 million.

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