First Lady supports UNRWA’s youth development success

13 March 2011

13 March 2011

Today, the First Lady of Syria joined UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, to celebrate the success of a youth development, vocational education and employment project supporting young people in their transition from school to work. The event, attended by the Ambassador of the European Union and UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, marked the completion of a four-year pilot project and the launch of UNRWA’s ‘engaging youth’ project, which aims to generate new ideas, new skills and new jobs for young Palestinian refugees.

At a time of a booming youth population, expanding private sector and economic liberalisation in Syria, UNRWA used the event to announce its firm commitment to expanding its efforts on vocational education to meet the private sector’s need for a skilled workforce and to harness the energy and ideas of young people.

The engaging youth project has already opened 12 youth development centres in camps across Syria in order to make their services as accessible as possible to young Palestinian refugees. The new centres are staffed by young, enthusiastic, talented individuals who themselves have been newly trained by UNRWA.

H.E. Vassilis Bontosoglou, Ambassador of the European Union said: “There has never been a better time to support youth development and vocational education in Syria. UNRWA and the European Union are dedicated to supporting young Palestinian refugees in making the difficult transition from school to work. We’ve already helped thousands by identifying labour market needs, providing career guidance and training – through our support of the engaging youth project we can reach thousands more.”

Mr Filippo Grandi, Commissioner General of UNRWA, said: “UNRWA believes in young Palestinian people… in their potential and their contributions. We see young people as problem-solvers in their communities, not as problems to solve. With UNRWA’s commitment to providing vocational education, life-skills training and career guidance, we want young Palestinians to know they have choices.”

Mr Ali Mustafa, Director General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees highlighted: “We will keep working with UNRWA and other youth organisations to serve our youth, instilling the principle of partnership and community service. Through the implementation of initiatives, workshops and activities we will generate work opportunities for many young people, allowing them to contribute to and participate in determining their priorities.”

Ms Claude Isakov, project manager of UNRWA’s new engaging youth project, went on to explain: “The engaging youth project is dedicated to supporting young Palestinian school leavers to learn creative and technical skills for employment and find their place in the labour market. We know it’s working – we see confident young people starting jobs and using their initiative to improve their own communities. Parents come to thank us for the changes they see in their sons or daughters. By reaching one young person today we’re supporting a whole family in the future.”

Key successes of UNRWA and the European Union’s partnership on youth development include:

  • Establishing five employment centres registering 3,012 job seekers (52 per cent women) and a network of 496 employers.
  • 57 per cent of registered jobseekers were prepared and referred to a job interview matching their profile. 859 succeed in getting a job as a direct result of UNRWA’s career guidance support.
  • 53 employability skills sessions benefiting 1,338 young people to familiarise them with the private sector and the personal skills required to work within it.
  • Provision of 60 new short-term courses covering 25 specialisations for 1,245 young people with limited training opportunities.
  • Some training courses showed 100 per cent employment rate: air-conditioner unit maintenance, computer and mobile maintenance, welding, electrical installations etc.)
  • An average employment rate of 44 per cent in Damascus and 50 per cent in the governorates.
  • The creation of two 2-year courses in graphic design and mechatronics, much in demand by the private sector.
  • Construction of a new boarding facility at the Damascus Training Centre for female students
  • Local labour market studies carried out for the first time to create a better understanding of gaps and future needs as well as links with the private sector.

UNRWA has a proud history of providing crucial services to Palestinian refugees and remains completely committed to its mandated responsibilities to provide basic services in education, health, relief and social services in order to meet the basic needs of the refugees in Syria and maintain its core projects.

Through offering youth development, career counselling, vocational education and self-employment advice UNRWA and the European Union hope to reach out to thousands more young Palestinian refugees and achieve results which will resonate for decades to come.

– ENDS –

For more information or to request interviews in specific languages,
please contact:

Hala Mukhles
UNRWA Public Information Officer
Office: + 963 (011) 613 3035 ext. 314
Mobile: + 963 (0)940 888103
Email: [email protected]

Kinda Katranji
EU Press and Communications Officer
Office: + 963 (011) 332 7640 ext.149
Email: [email protected]

Background Information

The ‘Improving Socio-economic Conditions of Palestine Refugees in Syria” and ‘engaging youth‘ projects have both been generously funded by the European Union.

The Damascus Training Centre (DTC) was established in 1961 by UNRWA Syria on a site donated by Syrian Government to provide free technical and vocational education for Palestinian refugees. To date, over 15,430 Palestinians have graduated from the DTC; many are employed within Syria while others have found work in the wider region. The DTC aims to equip trainees with knowledge and skills that will enable them to participate fully in the labour market. By actively decreasing the number of unemployed Palestine refugee youth, UNRWA believes it is possible to reduce their vulnerability and social problems.

The ‘engaging youth‘ project marks the beginning of a long-term effort by UNRWA Syria to create better future prospects for young Palestinian refugees in Syria. It focuses on accompanying young people in the transition from school to work and builds on UNRWA‘s considerable experience in vocational training, career guidance, and youth leadership development. The engaging youth project works with young refugees from 13-35 years old building careers, developing life skills and promoting self-employment.

The central services engaging youth offers to Palestinian refugees include:

  • Career guidance counselling;
  • Youth development – space to express opinions, develop initiatives and work with others;
  • Life-skill training;
  • Inclusive education – new approaches so students can complete their basic education;
  • Vocational skills training;
  • Adult education – helping parents to complete their own education so they can support their children in achieving their full potential;
  • Business start-up skills training, advice and inspiration;
  • Networking opportunities with the private sector.

Engaging youth centres are located in:

Damascus: Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh, Khan Danoun, Sbeineh, Jaramana, Qabr Essit and Husseinieh Camps
Elsewhere: Dera‘a, Homs, Hama, Neirab and al-Ramel al-Janoubi camps.

The European Union constitutes the largest provider of international assistance to Palestinian refugees. Over the last decade, the EU alone has provided more than €1 billion of support to UNRWA.

To find out more about the EU’s assistance to the Palestinians, visit the Europa website