16 November 2015
“UNRWA went through a special and demanding year and I am very satisfied that we have all together rediscovered the deep importance of dignity and accountability towards Palestine refugees. That we have rediscovered that UNRWA is not just any international organization, but is an agency with a soul and a huge impact in providing dignity and crucial services to a community that today still represents almost 40 percent of the world’s protracted refugees,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl told representatives of donor and host countries at the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting held in Jordan.
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s concluding remarks
17 November 2015
The financial crisis of 2015 was discussed at the November meeting of the Advisory Commission, where members were briefed on the extraordinary efforts implemented by UNRWA and the international community to address a US$ 101 million deficit in the Agency’s 2015 core programme budget. According to updates provided at the meeting, both traditional and non-traditional donors contributed generously to the shortfall, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates covering around half of the deficit amount. The past year also saw UNRWA implementing a series of bold measures to reduce expenditure without significantly impacting vital and life-saving services provided to Palestine refugees.
Advisory Commission members were also presented with an overview of the results of the recent external evaluation of the Agency’s 2012-2015 Resource Mobilization Strategy (RMS). According to Uta Boellhoff, the Director of External Relations and Communications, the evaluation found that UNRWA had largely met the strategic objectives identified in the RMS, despite the structural and contextual challenges that UNRWA has faced and continues to face as it seeks to place itself on a sustainable financial footing. The forthcoming RMS for 2016-2018, to be released in early 2016, will seek to build upon these successes and set out new strategic objectives to ensure the Agency’s financial stability in the coming years.
On 16 November, UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness moderated a panel discussion at the Advisory Commission regarding the untenable situation in Gaza in the lead-up to 2020. The panel featured Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza; Amal Siyam, General Director of the Women’s Affairs Centre in Gaza; Omar Shaban, Director of the Gaza-based think tank PalThink for Strategic Studies; and Fuad Bateh, Adviser for the Water Sector at the Office of the Quartet Representative. The panelists discussed the most pressing issues concerning Gaza today, emphasizing that the coastal enclave risks becoming unlivable by 2020 if drastic action is not taken.
Advisory Commission members were also presented with a short video highlighting the current situation in Gaza, which can be viewed online here.
17 November 2015
The Advisory Commission’s recommendations regarding the Medium Term Strategy (MTS) and the Agency’s strategic financial situation remained key reference points for management decision-making during the financial crisis this past summer, said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell at the November Advisory Commission meeting in Jordan last week. “The implementation of the MTS has already started in many ways,” said Ms. Mitchell. “The critical need for the Agency to stabilize its financial situation led to a very different budget and planning process for 2016 that has taken into consideration many of the changes needed in order to implement the MTS initiatives.” She highlighted the Agency’s priorities vis-à-vis the MTS recommendations for the coming period, including ensuring the sustainability of core UNRWA programmes, strengthening and expanding partnerships to improve the use of resources, and improving internal communications and oversight.
16 November 2015
The reconstruction process in Gaza remains slow more than a year after last summer’s hostilities, while Palestine refugees across the region continue to be heavily affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, according to updates presented by the field directors at the November meeting of the Advisory Commission last week.
According to Bo Schack, the newly appointed Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, the emergency shelter programme remains critically underfunded, resulting in costly delays and extended displacement for thousands of Palestine refugee families in the coastal enclave. The crisis is further compounded by the ongoing blockade of Gaza, which continues to cripple the local economy and contribute to rising poverty rates and unemployment levels.
Meanwhile, Michael Kingsley-Nyah, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, said that approximately 450,000 Palestine refugees are estimated to reside in Syria, with over 95 per cent reliant on UNRWA to meet their minimum basic needs. Humanitarian access remains a primary concern for UNRWA Syria, with more than 40,000 Palestine refugees in the country residing in areas frequently inaccessible to the Agency.
Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan Roger Davies noted that at least half a million Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) are estimated to currently reside in Jordan, placing additional pressures on the Kingdom’s already-strained economy, infrastructure and public services. With borders currently closed to the entry of additional PRS and some PRS having been refouled, UNRWA continues to appeal to the Jordanian authorities to review its policies towards PRS, said Mr. Davies.
Insufficient funding forced UNRWA to suspend cash-for-rent assistance to PRS residing in Lebanon in July – the main source of income for 98 per cent of the approximately 43,000 PRS estimated to be in the country – according to Matthias Schmale, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. Mr. Schmale also discussed the importance of completing the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared, noting that UNRWA Lebanon was forced to suspend relief support for displaced families from the camp last month. The move provoked strong opposition from the local community and affected service delivery, he said.
According to Felipe Sanchez, the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, the period since June 2015 has seen increased threat of evictions and settlement expansion; growing settler aggressiveness; and a rise in tensions related to holy sites, particularly with regards to Israeli policies and restrictions in and around Al-Aqsa Compound. He expressed serious concerns over the high number of demolitions between January and October 2015, which have displaced at least 575 Palestinians, around a third of whom were Palestine refugees.
26 July 2015
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is holding an extraordinary session of its Advisory Commission today, to discuss the Agency’s most severe financial crisis ever. The Commission will review the growing risk that UNRWA may have to delay the start of the academic year in some 700 schools for half a million students across the Middle East unless the deficit of $101 million can be fully funded before the school year is due to start.
15 June 2015
I ask you today: If you were given 30 seconds to describe landmarks of human history since 1950, what would they list? The Korean War and the start of the Cold War; desegregation in the United States; uprisings in Europe in the 1960s and in the Arab world in the 2010s; the end of colonialism and apartheid; the rise and fall of dictatorships in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa; the Berlin Wall built and brought down; and the destruction of the towers. Genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. Olympic Games in 15 cities and football World Cups in 17 countries. And throughout this entire period, Palestine refugees have remained refugees.
Click here to read the full statement or watch below
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s concluding remarks
16 June 2015
"The isolation, exclusion and dispossession of Palestine refugees in Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon represent a time-bomb for the Middle East region", according to Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Speaking at a meeting of UNRWA's Advisory Commission of major donors and host governments in Amman, Mr Krähenbühl said more than five million Palestine refugees today "face an existential crisis on many fronts" which he said was "a denial of dignity and rights that must be addressed".
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15 June 2015
The on-going crisis in Syria was a consistent them in the reports the Advisory Commission heard from field directors.
Michael Kingsley-Nyah, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, updated the Commission on the operational context in Syria. Kingsley stated that “protracted, complex and widespread armed conflict” is exacerbating poverty, posing protection threats and causing “profound hardship for Palestine refugees.” Despite growing security risks, UNRWA is striving to maintain regular programmes alongside a robust humanitarian response, a recent example being the humanitarian aid to civilian residents of Yarmouk displaced to the areas around the camp.
Director of UNRWA in Jordan Roger Davies drew the members’ attention to the strain that over half a million Syrian refugees are placing on the country’s resources. Davies warned the Commission that the 2.2 million Palestine refugees and the 15,600 Palestine refugees and their families from Syria registered with UNRWA are in danger of “being overlooked and possibly forgotten. “
In Lebanon, Palestine refugees from Syria are increasingly vulnerable due to issues with entry, legal status and residency and the obstacles to unemployment and education faced by Palestine refugees in Lebanon more generally. Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon Matthias Schmale reported that UNRWA interventions in cash assistance for food and housing are more critical now than ever.
15 June 2015
Advisory Commission members heard from Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Felipe Sanchez about challenges facing Palestine refugees in the West Bank. Of great concern is the advancement of plans by the Israeli authorities to transfer and resettle Palestinian Bedouin communities living in Area C to the urbanized townships of Al Jabal, Nweima and Fasayil.
Also of concern in the West Bank are on-going demolitions (233 Palestinian structures were demolished between 1 January and 19 May this year), settler violence and accelerated settlement expansion. Sanchez reassured the Advisory Commission that the West Bank Field Office is continuing its strong public and private advocacy efforts, as well as psychosocial support, to address human rights violations experienced by Palestine refugees.
15 June 2015
The pace of reconstruction in Gaza, lack of funding and the dire humanitarian situation on the ground were major features in report to the Advisory Commission. outgoing Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip Robert Turner’s. Turner reported that morale is low; “whatever hope for positive change had been left among Gaza residents has evaporated.” The blockade is entering its ninth year and the impact of isolation, particularly on the younger generation, cannot be measured. Turner warned Advisory Commission members that “a return to an escalation of hostilities seems inevitable if the relevant actors do not take the necessary corrective actions.”
1.3 million Palestine refugees continue looking to UNRWA for the provision of basic services. UNRWA continues to be the only stable institution in the Gaza Strip, as it has been over the past several decades.
15 June 2015
The Advisory Commission welcomed the completion of the Agency’s Medium Term Strategy for 2016 – 2021. The process of developing the Medium Term Strategy had taken two years of intensive internal and external consultation, study and analysis. The document sets a direction for UNRWA’s work over the next six years that will best enable it to address growing and deepening needs of Palestine refugees in all fields of operation. The Strategy articulates how the Agency will deliver the most cost-effective and impactful services possible. UNRWA aims to protect and promote the rights of refugees under international law, to protect and reduce the burden of disease, to ensure school-aged children complete quality, equitable and inclusive basic education, to strengthen refugee capabilities for increased livelihoods opportunities and to help refugees meet their basic human needs of food, shelter and environmental health. The Strategy demands solid resource mobilization and strong partnerships at all levels. In the Strategy, UNRWA reiterates the unsustainability of the refugee condition and impresses upon the international community the urgency of resolving the plight of Palestine refugees.
7 May 2015
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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9 December 2014
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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