UNRWA Advisory Commission Chair Per Orneus visited Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in April to meet UNRWA staff, government officials, refugees and service providers, in addition to visiting refugee camps and gaining insight into the issues that define each field.
A key message to emerge from the visit was that the challenges faced by refugees are not getting any easier, despite the commitment of UNRWA and its staff. Stability is a growing concern in each field against the backdrop of broader regional developments.
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The UN General Assembly has voted with an overwhelming majority to admit Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to full membership of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); the Agency’s consultative body which advises on key strategic decisions.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said, “Both Brazil and the UAE have been exemplary partners , providing steadfast support to UNRWA operations, including during and after the 50-day Gaza conflict. Membership of the Advisory Commission now seals their place and I welcome them to the UNRWA family.”
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17 November 2014
At our last meeting, I described the situation of Palestine refugee communities as unsustainable. Since then, the trends have become even bleaker. The pressures on Palestinians and Palestine refugees are immense and the threats to their lives, livelihoods or future are of such magnitude that hope is needed somewhere on the horizon. Hope - in this most unstable region - can only and must be brought about by resolute political action.
Click here to read the full statement or below to hear the Commissioner-General's concluding remarks.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the biannual UNRWA Adivsory Commission meeting.
The growing crisis in the Gaza Strip was the primary issue discussed at the November UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting.
Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl emphasized that lifting the blockade is crucial to preventing another military escalation. Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner added that although the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is necessary, it cannot substitute for lifting the blockade. Large-scale reconstruction in Gaza can only be implemented if resources are available through the GRM, the blockade is lifted and the political situation stabilizes, Mr. Turner said.
Paying tribute to UNRWA colleagues, Mr. Krähenbühl emphasized that running 24-hour emergency shelters for almost 300,000 internally displaced persons is no easy feat. UNRWA effectively supported the entire population of the Gaza Strip – some 1.76 million people – throughout the emergency, while maintaining core services where security allowed, including health centres, food and water distribution and sanitation services in the camps.
In the aftermath of the military escalation, the most critical interventions are shelter repair, transitional shelter support and reconstruction.
As conflict-torn Syria braces for winter, UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees displaced and trapped in besieged areas.
Director of UNRWA Operations in Syria Michael Kingsley-Nyinah told the UNRWA Advisory Commission that UNRWA is the only United Nations agency with the staff, skills and operational capacity to directly address Palestine refugee needs in Syria.
UNRWA innovation to adapt to the emergency context has included the development of self-learning materials for students who cannot access schools, and the establishment of health points in several areas, including Yarmouk camp, where access to health centres is difficult.
Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan are facing challenges similar to their counterparts in Gaza and Syria, the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting heard.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, access restrictions, the Barrier, forced displacement, demolitions and poverty are just a few of the manifestations of the ongoing Israeli occupation.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl drew Advisory Commission members’ attention to the increasingly tense situation in East Jerusalem. While Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Felipe Sanchez highlighted the sharp increase in the number Palestine refugees killed and injured by Israeli security forces over the past year and the unprecedented pace of settlement expansion. Bedouin communities in the West Bank received special attention in an informal session on protection due to the impending Israeli government plans to forcibly relocate them to the Nweima township.
In Lebanon, Palestine refugees face exclusion and limited access to resources, a problem exacerbated by the presence of 42,000 new Palestine refugees from Syria.
Palestine refugees in Jordan also face hardship, including thousands living in sub-standard shelters in need of rehabilitation and increasing numbers living in abject poverty, particularly those living in camps.
The life-saving support UNRWA has provided to Palestine refugees for 64 years has only been possible due to the enduring generosity of Arab and Palestinian partners, the UNRWA Advisory Committee was told.
Arab and Palestinian partners have stood with Palestine refugees and UNRWA as the refugees have faced constant hardship and recurring crises with resilience. This support cannot be overstated. Beyond providing assistance and services, such support enables a new generation of Palestine refugees to work towards reaching their full human potential.
Sixty-six years after the Palestine refugee crisis began, the condition of the refugees is unsustainable. The Advisory Committee meeting was told that the period covered by the next UNRWA Medium Term Strategy – 2016-2021 – will be among the most difficult in Palestine refugee history and a period of growing complexity for UNRWA operations. Palestine refugees face a human development and protection crisis exacerbated by armed conflict in Syria and the Gaza Strip and ongoing discrimination in the occupied Palestinian territory. The absence of a solution to the refugee question, and the profound challenges of socioeconomic development, will continue to increase the demand for core UNRWA services and emergency assistance.
UNRWA will remain the lead international actor in reducing the impact of threats to the Palestine refugee community during the 2016-2021 period. To that end, the Agency has identified five strategic outcomes that it will work towards with the assistance of regional, national and local partners. These outcomes are:
UNRWA will establish a stronger foundation of efficient and effective management in order to achieve these outcomes.
24 June 2014
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Advisory Commission conducted a field visit to Burj Barajneh, Shatila and Rashidieh Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon on 18 and 19 June for a delegation consisting of Head of the European Union Delegation in Jerusalem, John Gatt-Rutter; Senior Advisor at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, Karin Gatt-Rutter; Deputy Representative of Ireland in Ramallah, Stephanie O’Brien; AusAid Head of Cooperation in Ramallah, Joel Thorpe; Head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Jerusalem, Véronique Hulmann; United Kingdom team leader in Jerusalem, Henrietta Hawxwell; Senior Advisor and Programme Advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trine Rønning Mathisen; Samar Sayegh-Makhlouf; and the Finnish desk officer responsible for UNRWA, Anna Merrifield.
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18 June 2014
The AdCom meets twice a year, usually in June and November, to discuss issues of importance to UNRWA, striving to reach consensus and provide advice and assistance to the Commissioner-General of the Agency. These photos were taken at the most recent Advisory Commission meeting held on 16-17 June 2014 in Amman, Jordan.
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17 June 2014
Speaking at the meeting of the UNRWA Advisory Commission in Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said that a powerful sense of the unsustainability of the situation of Palestine refugees has emerged from his first visits to Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and from his discussions with refugees and UNRWA colleagues. “I mean this in overall human terms, from social and economic perspectives to the dimension of human rights, security and dignity,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.
Click here to read the Commissioner-General’s full statement.
Click here to read a summary of the Commissioner-General concluding remarks or below to listen to them in full.
16-17 June 2014
“When combining the pressures on the Palestine refugees with the achievements we have seen over several decades, I am confident in saying that UNRWA’s contribution to human development, to addressing emergency needs and to stability remains as important as ever”, said Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. One of the Agency’s first priorities to keep our efforts moving forward is the development of a medium-term strategy (MTS) for 2016 to 2021. Working with host authorities and supporters to examine the current situation of Palestine refugees and its evolution over the coming years, UNRWA will better understand the community’s needs and the kinds of services we must provide. With this knowledge, the MTS identifies five major outcomes: meeting Palestine refugees’ basic needs, ensuring healthy choices and treatment, providing education for refugee children, improving livelihoods and strengthening the protection of refugees under international law. These outcomes will structure UNRWA work, providing an overall focus and consistency across the five fields while allowing for adaptation to local circumstances.
16-17 June 2014
The Agency’s financial situation in 2014 presents numerous challenges that will require active management and the efforts of both UNRWA and its supporters. We will work to preserve and strengthen our relationships with our traditional partners while reaching out to new ones; at the same time, we will work internally to ensure lasting financial sustainability, as we have done in the past. Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl emphasized that UNRWA planning would focus on better analysing how we work to best meet Palestine refugees’ needs.
16 June 2014
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has launched a Ramadan Appeal for US$ 27 million to enable Palestine refugees trapped in Syria to be able to buy food in Ramadan.
Announcing the appeal, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said: “As we come up to Ramadan, we can foresee a prospect of thousands of Palestinian refugees going hungry because very simply they do not have enough money to buy food. Their livelihoods and often their houses have been destroyed. The US$ 27 million requested would enable us to distribute cash to 440,000 of the needy through our proven and very reliable cash-distribution network.”
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