Statement from the UNRWA Executive Office of the Commissioner-General on staff pay

28 April 2023


As part of the continuous efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to bring balance between the right of Palestine Refugees to receive critical services and its commitment to improve the working conditions of UNRWA staff, and in full recognition of the rising cost of living and soaring inflation in the West Bank, UNRWA calls on staff who are on strike to report back to work and put an end to the strike.

In parallel, on top of many actions already taken since January to improve conditions for staff such as analysis of the pay policy in close collaboration with the leadership of the Intra Staff Union Conference (ISUC), UNRWA management will strongly advocate for a discussion with members of the Advisory Commission (AdCom) for their review of the Agency’s pay policy. The objective of this review is to ensure that the policy provides fair salaries in line with the region's economic realities. In addition, UNRWA is already reviewing the outcomes of its 2022 salary survey.

Over the last few days, in several meetings, the Commissioner-General reminded the Agency’s major donors that UNRWA area staff salaries are far lower than those of nationally recruited United Nations staff, with a completely different pay scale. Under a political solution, it was hoped that UNRWA staff would transition into Palestinian public institutions, aligning the Agency’s area staff pay scale with that of local civil service in host countries, per a decision made by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Member States.

In all of his meetings with Palestinian government officials, partners, and donors, the Commissioner-General has repeatedly stated that UNRWA staff deserve the best pay possible for their critical work. And, in these discussions, he constantly commends the staff for their commitment, dedication and professionalism despite the hardship and volatility they and their communities face. Providing essential services and salaries to staff during challenging times can be a daunting task. Nevertheless, UNRWA is committed and determined, working closely with hosts, staff, unions and communities to alleviate the suffering of Palestine Refugees in camps, while also improving working conditions for staff.

The ongoing strike is causing great harm to Palestine Refugees in the occupied West Bank. Children who have already missed crucial months of learning because of COVID-19 related school closures, now face the risk of further learning loss as schools continue to be closed. Some 45,000 children are out of school, increasing the risk to their safety if the security situation around them deteriorates. Thousands of patients whose access to health-care is now reduced, fear for their health and well-being. The chronically ill are now at special risk and urgently require their medication. 

In the past week, through enormous efforts, some critical health services and cash distribution were finally made available to Palestine Refugees, using alternative modalities. Some 10,000 patients received health services in 21 UNRWA health centres across the West Bank. Our Digital Learning Platform is being updated to help UNRWA students and their parents catch up on missed lessons. Alternatives for solid waste management in the private sector are currently being explored to help mitigate against the immense public health hazard that the piling-up of garbage is causing. 

UNRWA appeals once again to all staff on strike to return to work so that Palestine Refugees can receive vital services and so that dialogue to address the dispute can resume and hopefully lead to productive results from discussions at AdCom on the pay policy and reviews of the salary survey.


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Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.


For more information, please contact:

Juliette Touma
UNRWA Director of Communications
+962-79-867-4628 (on whatsapp)
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson/ Director of External Relations & Communications
+962 (0)79 090 0140