UNRWA and Cisco Innovate for Palestine Refugees
In Amman on 22 April, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) hosted Laura Quintana, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cisco Systems, Inc., for her first meeting with the Agency. Along with other Cisco officials, she had come to discuss increasing the successful cooperation between Cisco and UNRWA in the fields of education and health.
UNRWA vocational and technical training centres (VTTCs) throughout the five fields began offering Cisco systems-training courses in 2001. Although the training has been suspended in Damascus due to the conflict in Syria, a total of approximately 4,600 students have graduated from the courses. Ms. Quintana presented UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis with an award recognizing UNRWA achievements in teaching Cisco systems through its VTTCs.
Ms. Quintana was impressed by the high percentage of female graduates in UNRWA centres, which currently stands at 35 per cent, exceeding the participation of women in the US (14 per cent), Europe (10 per cent) and globally (20 per cent). Combined with career counselling for students in grades eight through ten, as well as collaboration with UN Women in recruiting female students, the Cisco training has led to an employment rate for UNRWA graduates of 96.5 per cent in Jordan and 80 per cent in Gaza. Ms. Ellis noted that these successes reflected that there were no cultural impediments keeping women in the region from joining the IT-sector workforce.
UNRWA and Cisco discussed methods to increase cooperation and offer greater resources to Palestine refugees, for example to increase the employment rate for female graduates. Ms. Quintana suggested collaborating on a pilot of the Passport 21 programme, which focuses on entrepreneurial skills that complement IT training, and an 'Aspire Game' to develop ethics and corporate social responsibility in IT. After UNRWA Director of Health Dr. Akihiro Seita described the Agency's health programme, including the recently developed E-health system, Ms. Quintana described other innovative tools that can increase collaboration not just in education but also in health care.
UNRWA has served the Palestine refugee community for more than six decades. Throughout that time, the Agency has been committed to improving, developing and innovating in its programmes to provide them with the tools, skills, knowledge and opportunities that they need. Partnerships with organizations like Cisco have been a vital element in preparing Palestine refugees for the future.
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.
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