Who We Are

Iraq invades Kuwait

2nd August 1990

Iraq invades Kuwait. UNRWA is part of the international effort to provide emergency assistance to the hundreds of thousands of individuals flowing into Jordan from Kuwait, Iraq and other Gulf states. By March 1991, approximately 250,000 persons holding Jordanian passports – the majority of whom are of Palestinian origin, including many registered Palestine refugees – arrive in Jordan. UNRWA schools in Jordan absorb an additional 2,500 students.

microfinance department

microfinance department

1991

UNRWA establishes what will later become its Microfinance Department in an effort to provide sustainable income-generation opportunities to Palestine refugees. The department grows exponentially over the next two decades; in 2008, it becomes the largest microfinance service provider in the oPt and the second-largest in Syria. It will later launch loan products specifically targeting home-based women entrepreneurs, in 2010, and young people, in 2012. The ‘Mubadarati’ loan for young entrepreneurs is the first youth microfinance product of its kind in the region.

UNRWA moves its headquarters to Gaza City

UNRWA moves its headquarters to Gaza City

1993

UNRWA moves its headquarters to Gaza City as part of its response to the Middle East Peace Process, initiated in 1991 by the Madrid Conference. In response to Oslo I, the Agency begins developing its Peace Implementation Programme, preparing to hand over its responsibilities in the oPt to the Palestinian Authority.

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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 2017.

> 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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