Who We Are

Arab-Israeli War

1st April 1948

April - August 1948: More than 700,000 Palestine refugees are displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli War.

Resolution 194

Resolution 194

11th December 1948

The United Nations General Assembly adopts resolution 194 (III), resolving that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Resolution 302

Resolution 302

8th December 1949

UNRWA is created by General Assembly resolution 302 (IV), with the initial mandate to provide “direct relief and works programmes” to Palestine refugees, in order to “prevent conditions of starvation and distress… and to further conditions of peace and stability”. UNRWA takes over from the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR), established in 1948.

READ MORE re Mandate:

In response to developments in the region, the General Assembly repeatedly extends and expands the UNRWA mandate, requiring the Agency to engage in a wide variety of humanitarian, development and protection activities based on the needs of beneficiaries.

General Assembly resolution 614 (VII), in 1952, notes a need for “increased relief expenditures” in the UNRWA budget. In 1955, resolution 916 (X) notes the "serious need of other claimants for relief […] namely, the frontier villagers in Jordan, the non-refugee population of the Gaza Strip, a number of refugees in Egypt, and certain of the Bedouin”. General Assembly resolutions in 1958 and 1959 recommend that the Agency increase programmes relating to education, vocational training and self-support, an emphasis that will become an important blueprint for the Agency.

Following the hostilities of June 1967, in which 300,000 people, including some 120,000 Palestine refugees, are rendered homeless or leave their homes, resolution 2252 (ES-V) asks UNRWA to “continue to provide humanitarian assistance… on an emergency basis, and as a temporary measure, to persons in the area who are currently displaced and in serious need of continued assistance”. In later years, the General Assembly repeatedly restates the Agency’s mandate for those displaced in 1967, and, after the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982, extends it to encompass those displaced by “subsequent hostilities.” In the same year, resolution 37/120 (J) explicitly adds protection to the list of UNRWA responsibilities, urging the Agency to “undertake effective measures to guarantee the safety and security and the legal and human rights of the Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories.”

From 1992 to 2002, UNRWA collaborates with the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and other specialized agencies of the United Nations system to contribute to the development of economic and social stability in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). In 1993, after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, UNRWA begins developing its Peace Implementation Programme, which works “to meet Palestinian requests for assistance and priorities” during the interim period; General Assembly resolution 49/35 (1994) notes its “significant success.”

While other agencies and actors have the central role in arriving at a resolution of the Palestine refugee issue, UNRWA is mandated to work with governments on interim measures and to provide relief and assistance to Palestine refugees “pending the just resolution” of the Palestine refugee question.  The role UNRWA plays in the region has evolved to reflect the needs and pressures of the times, but the Agency’s central mandate remains largely unchanged: UNRWA protects and assists Palestine refugees, seeking to help them achieve their full potential in human development.



We provide assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.

The Agency’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.


Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2020.

Palestine refugees

UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. It has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration. 

UNRWA services are available to all those living in its areas of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.

Read more about Palestine Refugees

Human Development Goals
The United Nations describes human development in the following terms...
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon administered the oath of office to Pierre Krähenbühl, new Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 20 April 2015. The Secretary-General (left) with Mr. Krähenbühl after the swearing in. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Pierre Krähenbühl has served as UNRWA Commissioner-General since...
How We Are Funded
UNRWA benefits from the generous support of UN Member States, the...
How We Spend Funds
Operating within a resource-constrained environment, and reliant on...
Reforming UNRWA
In 2007, UNRWA began a comprehensive reform programme to strengthen...
UNRWA Advisory Commission Meeting, June 2014. © 2014 UNRWA Photo by Alaa Ghoseh
The Advisory Commission was created by UN Resolution 302 (IV) on 8...
Organizational Structure
UNRWA is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with over 30,...
Frequently asked questions
This section deals with general queries about UNRWA. For the Agency’s...
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees