In Brussels, UNRWA, UN and EU Partners Stress Vital Importance of Refugee Education

26 October 2017
Joint press point by David McAllister, Chair of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, and by Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, on the situation of refugees in Palestine. Photo by Jan Van De Vel; courtesy of the European Union

Between 9 and 13 October 2017, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) teamed with partners from the European Union (EU) as well as the United Nations (UN) for discussions and to launch a series of events in the European Parliament (EP) to sensitise partners on the situation of Palestine refugee children in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 

UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, briefed the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and met bilaterally with AFET Chair, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) David McAllister. He further briefed the 28 EU Member States at the Political and Security Committee, and met with the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides; President of the European Socialist Party Sergei Stanishev; President of the European People’s Party Joseph Daul; and European External Action Service Secretary-General, Helga Schmid. These discussions focused on the EU’s political and financial support to UNRWA; the enhanced partnership with EU institutions and other constituencies for higher outreach and financial sustainability of the Agency; and the importance of improving prospects of Palestine refugees - in particular youth.

On Monday 9 October, UNRWA Commissioner-General Krähenbühl, the Chair of the EP Committee on Development, MEP Linda McAvan, and the Deputy Head of Cabinet of Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, Emma Udwin, opened a photo and video exhibition on the topic of “Building the Future – Teachers in Refugee Communities”. Organised on the heels of World Teachers Day, the exhibition showed, through portraits of UNRWA education staff, the breadth of EU-supported services the Agency provides to bolster the resilience of young Palestine refugees and to help them become positive forces in their society.

On Thursday 12 October, UNRWA also co-hosted a high-level panel with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group) and with UNESCO on the topic of “Education of Refugee Children in the Middle East: What Matters? Experiences and Best Practices”. The panel was introduced by key statements by MEP Gianni Pittella, President of the S&D Group in the EP, and Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and chaired by the EP Standing Rapporteur for Humanitarian Aid, MEP Enrique Guerrero Salom. Drawing from concrete experience on the ground, experts from UNRWA, UNESCO and the Norwegian Refugee Council discussed obstacles to and identified the best solutions for the provision of quality inclusive education even in emergency situations. The long-standing experience of UNRWA in providing quality and inclusive education to a protracted refugee population was commended by all participants. 

“I am deeply grateful for the exemplary support of the European Union and for its commitment to ensure that UNRWA is able to fulfil its role in providing crucial education services for Palestine refugees which have preserved opportunities and strengthened dignity for decades,” said Krähenbühl. 

Both the exhibition and the panel were made possible thanks to the generous support of the European Union.

EU and UNRWA: Together for Palestine Refugees

Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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