Who We Are

Black September

September 1970

A conflict, now known as Black September, breaks out between the PLO and the Jordanian Armed Forces. Thousands of Palestine refugees are expelled from the country, and the PLO leadership moves from Jordan to Lebanon.

Israeli air raids

Israeli air raids

1974

Israeli air raids destroy the Palestine refugee camp of Nabatiyeh in Lebanon, along with three other camps. In Nabatiyeh alone, 80 per cent of UNRWA concrete-block shelters, home to more than 3,000 Palestine refugees, are hit. The Agency immediately begins providing blankets and rations for the refugees, and also initiates an emergency feeding programme and a mobile medical unit.

Lebanese Civil War

Lebanese Civil War

1976

UNRWA is forced to leave its headquarters in Beirut, moving first to Amman and then to Vienna, due to growing instability from the Lebanese Civil War, which begins in 1975 and lasts until 1990.

Special Hardship Case programme

1978

The Special Hardship Case programme is established to distribute food to the neediest refugee families, concentrating on the poorest of the poor, for whom, as Commissioner-General Olof Rydbeck notes, “UNRWA is the only source for… relief.” This is later replaced by the Social Safety Net programme, which in 2013 supports nearly 300,00 Palestine refugees, or 6 per cent of the total.

South Lebanon Incursion

1978

Towards the end of the year, Israeli military operations, largely targeting Palestinian targets in southern Lebanon, displace some 67,000 Palestine refugees. UNRWA responds by providing emergency aid to those affected.

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We provide assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.

The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.

Establishment

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2014.

> Read the UN Resolution

Palestine refugees

UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. It has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration. 

UNRWA services are available to all those living in its areas of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.

> More on Palestine refugees

Human Development Goals
The United Nations describes human development in the following terms...
Organizational Structure
UNRWA is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with over 30,...
Advisory Commission
The Advisory Commission was created by UN Resolution 302 (IV) on 8...
In 2007, UNRWA began a comprehensive reform programme to strengthen...
Frequently asked questions
This section deals with general queries about UNRWA. For the Agency’s...

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