The UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth visits the West Bank and Gaza

24 June 2019
United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake meets with UNRWA student parliamentarians in Gaza, oPt. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Rula A

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, conducted an official mission to the West Bank and Gaza, as part of her first visit to the Middle East. During the mission, Ms. Wickramanayake visited schools, vocational training centres, health centres and youth summer camps run by UNRWA. She also met with business owners supported by the UNRWA microfinance programme. Ms. Wickramanayake then visited with young UNRWA students who, she described as, “A testimony to the power of quality education even in the most complex situations.”

“UNRWA students are amongst the most passionate and dedicated young people I have met in my career. Their love for learning, their achievements, their resourcefulness and hope for a better future inspires me to work even harder to advocate for their right to education.”

Quality education is a pillar of UNRWA programmes, with over 700 schools open to nearly half a million Palestine refugee students in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“I saw firsthand how much young Palestine refugees need and value education services provided by UNRWA. They told me: ‘Education is like oxygen, it keeps us alive!’ They also shared that they fear that they will to lose their right to education due to the financial crisis facing UNRWA today. This is why I called on all my followers and partners to contribute at to protect this basic right. We can’t let these bright young people down!” said Ms. Wickramanayake.

Ms. Wickramanayake’s mission included in-depth discussions with the Gaza Field Student Parliament, a group of girls and boys elected to represent the 280,000 students in UNRWA schools in Gaza. Amongst them were also representatives of the Agency-wide Student Parliament, a platform that provides an opportunity for elected UNRWA student representatives from all areas to work together to support their communities and advocate for their rights locally, regionally, and globally.

“The Student Parliament is a unique and effective platform to foster participation and promote agency among young men and women, who will go on to determine and promote their priorities,” said Ms. Wickramanayake. “I will talk about this everywhere I go in the future, hoping that young people in other countries can replicate this model. I leave the West Bank and Gaza with immense admiration for the resilience and energy of young Palestine refugees whose dreams and aspirations echo those of their counterparts around the world: they want a dignified future and opportunities to flourish.”

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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724