What We Do

 

What is Protection?  

Protection is the outcome of Palestine refugees having access to their rights, including the right to health, right to education, right to family life, right to non-discrimination, right to be free from arbitrary arrest, and other key rights under international law.  

It is UNRWA’s aim to ensure that protection is achieved through realization of these rights, whether through services provided by UNRWA, services available in host communities, or because of improved living conditions for Palestine refugees in UNRWA's five areas of operations. 

 

UNRWA’s Protection Mandate  

The protection of Palestine refugees lies at the core of UNRWA’s mandate. The United Nations General Assembly acknowledges the protection mandate of UNRWA by recognizing in its resolutions “the valuable work done by the Agency in providing protection to the Palestinian people, in particular Palestine refugees.”  

The Agency’s protection mandate specifically addresses the rights of vulnerable groups – women, children and persons with disabilities – and the General Assembly has encouraged UNRWA to further address their needs and rights in its operations in accordance with relevant international instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  

In line with the UN Call to Action for Human Rights, UNRWA’s protection work is primarily guided by the principle that the fulfilment of human rights is essential in addressing the causes and impacts of complex protection crises.  

 

Key Issues 

Today, UNRWA has integrated human rights and protection in its operations more than at any time in its history. With more than 75 years’ experience and 32,000 personnel across the region who are largely embedded in the Palestinian community, UNRWA is uniquely placed to contribute to the protection of Palestine refugees.  

 

UNRWA aims to focus its protection work across the Agency on:  

  • Protection challenges from the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and Gaza  

  • The impact of armed conflict in Syria and Gaza  

  • The plight of Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere  

  • The lack of legal status and denial of certain rights for Palestine refugees in host countries 

  • Protection risks facing women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities 

  • Ensuring that the most vulnerable Palestine refugees have equitable access to the Agency’s services and that no one is left behind 

 

The Protection Framework 

UNRWA recognizes that Palestine refugees are best protected through the realization of their human rights, including their right to health, education, food, shelter, culture, and non-discrimination. While the primary responsibility to protect, respect, and fulfil human rights lies with States, UNRWA serves a key role both as a provider of core services and as an advocate on behalf of the Palestine refugee population with duty bearers. The importance and centrality of a human rights-based approach to protection in the Agency’s operations is reflected in Strategic Outcome 1 of the UNRWA Strategic Plan (2023-2028) under which the Agency works to ensure Palestine refugees’ rights under international law are protected and promoted.  

UNRWA undertakes a broad range of activities for to promote the protection of Palestine refugees in the Agency’s five fields of operation within the scope of its mandate. Specifically, UNRWA identifies and addresses protection issues and needs using three interlinking and complementary approaches: 

  • Protection mainstreaming: ensuring that a ‘protection lens’ is incorporated into all programmes and services are safe, inclusive, participatory, and accountable to Palestine refugees. 

Example: establishment of appointment and queuing systems at all UNRWA health facilities to ensure better access, reduce waiting times for persons with disabilities, elderly, and other vulnerable patients. 

  • Protection programming: activities undertaken with the specific objective of identifying, preventing, mitigating, or responding to protection risks. 

Example:  providing legal awareness, consultation, and representation of Palestine Refugee families whose safety and access to basic services is curtailed due to lack of proper civil status documentation. Guiding the family through legal proceedings across civil, administrative, and Sharia courts, and facilitating their dealings with government bodies to secure residency and official recognition, ensuring the family’s specific needs are met, restoring their rights and dignity. 

  • Protection advocacy: to address protection risks through evidence-based advocacy with duty bearers and relevant external actors to safeguard and advance the rights of Palestine refugees under international law. 

Example: UNRWA field offices verify and document incidents affecting Palestine refugees involving allegations of rights violations and abuses. This is then used to engage – both privately, through constructive dialogue, and publicly when warranted – when advocating with authorities, and other public and private sector partners who may influence them, with the aim to improve the protective environment for Palestine refugees to prevent recurrence and respond more effectively to uphold the human rights of the refugee population. 

 

*Last updated: May 2024 


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