19 June 2018
The Advisory Commission of UNRWA met in Jordan on 18-19 June to discuss support for the Agency, as it continues with energetic efforts to meet the needs of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, said “It has been an extraordinarily difficult year for UNRWA and I am very encouraged by the first phase of mobilization in response to our funding crisis. It is extremely important that, so far, we have protected the school year and other vital services.”
19 June 2018
In spite of the financial challenges it continues to face, UNRWA has been able to effectively respond to recent humanitarian crises afflicting its fields of operations, especially in the Gaza Strip and Syria.
Member States’ delegates were briefed on latest developments in the Gaza Strip, where 117 Palestinians were killed, and thousands injured, in recent weeks in the context of the “Great March of Return” demonstrations near Gaza’s perimeter with Israel. These developments put additional pressure on the already strained public health sector bringing it to the verge of collapse. Representatives heard how the positive atmosphere surrounding the reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-led government in Gaza has faded. They were briefed on the stifling effects of the ongoing Israeli blockade on Gaza’s economy. The unemployment rate of 43.6 per cent reported in 2017 was the highest annual level ever reported.
Delegates heard how efforts supported by the international community in Syria significantly reduced the level of violence in some areas, but have not yet led to a meaningful and sustained end to hostilities. They were briefed on the impact the Government of Syria’s offensives against armed opposition groups in Damascus, especially in Yarmouk camp and Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem, in April and May, had on Palestine refugees, leading to further displacement. In 2018, 95 per cent of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees who remain in Syria rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs.
Delegates were told that lack of opportunities for Palestine refugee youth and increasing health care costs present two major challenges facing Palestine refugees in Lebanon. On the positive side, delegates heard how the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared gained momentum towards the end of 2017. As 53 per cent of the families displaced in 2007 have received the keys to the newly reconstructed housing units, 780 retail units were provided to traders and the construction of a health center and five out of six schools has been completed.
Member States’ delegates were briefed on the impact the financial challenges facing the Agency have had on effective service delivery in Jordan. For example, staff shortages due to financial constraints have negatively impacted garbage collection and disposal in the camps, creating a situation that has been described as unsustainable. Increasing vulnerability among Palestine refugees, a result of an increasingly fragile economy, and an overburdened infrastructure, with over 200 installations in need of urgent rehabilitation, represent two major challenges facing the Agency on the operational level in Jordan.
Delegates heard how the Israeli occupation, with its attendant restrictions on movement, access and trade, continues to hollow out the productive sector and stifle the economy in the West Bank, with negative effects on Palestine refugees. Unemployment and food insecurity rates among Palestine refugees are 20 and 15 per cent, respectively. Delegates were told that UNRWA remains concerned about the use of live ammunition in the West Bank, especially in light of a significant rise in the percentage of injuries sustained by Palestine refugees in and around camps in recent years. In 2017, the use of tear gas continued to present major protection concerns for Palestine refugees living in camps.
18 June 2018
“At this point, we do not have income to ensure the schools will open on time in August. And from July we will have to take very difficult measures impacting services and staff if we do not progress further,” Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl tells representatives of host and donor countries at the first bi-annual Advisory Commission Meeting of 2018, held in Jordan.
Click to listen to the Commissioner-General's opening statement.
Click to listen to the Commissioner-General’s closing remarks.
13 November 2017
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl pays tribute to the Agency for building and maintaining “one of the most successful” human development institutions in the region, highlights encouraging efforts to achieve financial stability for UNRWA, but concludes with an urgent call for action to close a US$ 77 million deficit in this year’s budget.
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s closing remarks.
13 November 2017
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, has paid tribute to the Agency in building and maintaining “one of the most successful” human development institutions in the Middle East, making an “indispensable contribution to human dignity, to the pursuit of human rights and regional stability”.
Speaking in Jordan at the Advisory Commission of host governments and leading donors, Mr. Krähenbühl told delegates that UNRWA in its 711 schools “was equipping the next generation – well over half a million children – with skills for life”, with refugee girls “among the best performers”. The Agency’s Health Department had “invented and introduced the concept of the family doctor in its 143 health clinics across the region” and, in Gaza, UNRWA had overseen the construction of shelters for over 85,000 families since the 2014 conflict.
The Commissioner-General paid tribute to what he called the “powerful renewed engagement of the UN General Assembly” and the “inspiring unity” with which Advisory Commission members had answered the call for support, which he described as “truly global”. He outlined the recommendations in the report of 30 March 2017 by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on “sufficient, predictable and sustained” funding for UNRWA, about which he said there had been some progress, including towards the establishment of a Trust Fund at the World Bank and a Waqf at the Islamic Development Bank.
Mr. Krähenbühl told delegates that the shortfall in the UNRWA operational budget for the rest of the year was still US$ 77 million. He explained that he had informed the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York just ten days ago that this shortfall would put at risk access to services to refugees in all fields. He concluded with an urgent call for collective action to close this critical financial gap.
13 November 2017
Recent developments indicate an opportunity for bridging the political divide between Gaza and the West Bank, but the potential for a recurrence of conflict persists.
The newly appointed Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, said that promise of political change provides a silver lining for Gaza but is unlikely to lead to decreased reliance on UNRWA services without lifting the blockade and the reinvigoration of the Gaza private sector. Poverty and unemployment rates show no signs of improvement and access to clean water and electricity remains at crisis level.
The Director of UNRWA in Syria, Mohammed Abdi Adar, said that while efforts supported by the international community significantly reduced the level of violence in some areas, intense and widespread hostilities persist, including in UNRWA areas of operations. 95 per cent of the 438,000 Palestine refugees who remain in Syria rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs.
According to the Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan, Roger Davies, the large influx of refugees over the past few years has placed a huge strain on Kingdom’s scarce natural resources, with rising unemployment rates negatively impacting employment opportunities for Palestine refugees. Over 250,000 of Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Jordan have been categorised as highly vulnerable.
In Lebanon, UNRWA continues to provide services to 270,000 Palestine refugees, in addition to humanitarian assistance and protection services to around 33,000 Palestine refugees from Syria. The Director of UNRWA Affairs, Claudio Cordone, said that the security situation in a number of Palestine refugee camps – specifically, Ein El Hilweh and Nahr el-Bared – continues to be a cause for concern.
According to Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, the repercussions of the Israeli military occupation, now in its 50th year, including violent incursions, home demolitions and constraints on economic development, are negatively impacting the lives and livelihoods of Palestine refugees. From January to June 2017, unemployment among refugees stood at 24.14 per cent, compared to 19.55 per cent for non-refugees. Food insecurity levels among refugee households stood at 15.1, compared to 11.9 per cent for non-refugee households. In refugee camps, food insecurity levels stood at 24.4 per cent.
14 November 2017
“A programme panel session highlighted the growing importance of developing best practices related to emergency response within UNRWA, in light of the scale and scope of the Agency’s humanitarian operations. Representatives from the Departments of Relief and Social Services and Education were joined by colleagues from the Gaza and Syria Field Offices to talk about how UNRWA prepares for and responds to emergencies, through a panel discussion moderated by the Deputy Director of Planning. UNRWA officials emphasized the centrality of UNRWA’s systems – in education, health and relief and social services – to ensuring effective and rapid responses to crisis, alongside the commitment and expertise of its staff, and in particular front-line responders. The discussion touched on a number of policy and operational issues. The Director of Relief and Social Services, Dorothee Klaus, explained that humanitarian aid has been an important part of UNRWA’s operations since the Agency’s establishment and referred to the scale of the challenges faced, including in the first phase of response and in more protracted situations. Fross Dabit, Education Programme Specialist working on Education in Emergencies (EiE), highlighted how UNRWA’s EiE is linked to its overall education approach and how UNRWA was influencing global debates and best practices related to education in emergencies. The Chief of the Field Health Programme in Syria, Tayseer Dabbagh, spoke of the immediate and long-term implications of the current crisis on the health status of the Palestine Refugee population and UNRWA’s services, whilst his counterpart in Gaza, Ghada Abl-Jabna, shared her experiences from repeated cycles of conflict in the Gaza Strip, and the wide-ranging constraints facing the Agency there.
Discussants linked their experiences and UNRWA’s approaches to current and evolving global practice, as per the outcomes of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants. Delegations paid tribute to UNRWA frontline staff and management and recognized the dilemmas facing the Agency due to dwindling resources and competing priorities.”
22 May 2017
“Wherever they turn today, [Palestine refugees] see no horizon, no identifiable political solution, no genuine determination, no respect of their rights,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl tells member states’ delegates at the first bi-annual Advisory Commission Meeting of 2017, held in Amman
Read the Commissioner-General’s full opening statement or watch it below.
You can also watch the Commissioner-General’s closing remarks below.
22 May 2017
2017 marks 50 years of occupation in Palestine as well as ten years of blockade in Gaza. Member States’ delegates were briefed on how the blockade in Gaza continues to negatively impact a broad range of human rights by crippling the economy and eroding coping mechanisms. The unemployment rate stands at around 42 per cent and 80 per cent of the population are forced to rely on humanitarian assistance to cover their basic needs. Lack of reliable access to resources such as water and electricity is adding to the volatility of the situation. The deteriorating situation is taking its toll on UNRWA operations, with the Agency having to address the impact of the energy crisis on its programmes and manage increasing reliance on its services and assistance. Delegates were briefed on the reconstruction of houses impacted during the 2014 conflict. As of April, more than 81,000 families have either completed or are completing the repair of their damaged homes and almost 1,600 families have completed or were in the process of completing the reconstruction of their totally destroyed homes. Delegates also heard how UNRWA works to addresses unemployment through the creation of job opportunities in various sectors. In 2016, the Agency contributed to reducing unemployment by 5.6 percentage points. They also heard that the family health team approach and e-Health system, the two major Agency-wide health reform initiatives, were fully implemented in Gaza.
The situation in the West Bank continues to be marked by long-lasting restrictions on movement, access and trade and increasing demolitions and displacement. Member states’ delegates heard how the lack of progress in peace talks is increasing frustration, which is directed towards the Israeli Occupation and increasingly towards the Palestinian Security Forces, especially in refugee camps. Delegates were briefed on the stagnant economic growth, which has produced unemployment rate of 18 per cent (23 per cent inside the camps) and worrisome food insecurity figures (22 per cent among Palestine refugees). UNRWA is especially concerned about the humanitarian impact of the forecasted oPt Emergency Appeal shortfall, which would lead to the discontinuation of the Cash-for-Work program and the Food Voucher program by the end of September 2017. Delegates were also briefed on the Agency’s efforts to address violence in its schools and in training its staff to respect neutrality obligations. They also heard that the Agency is increasingly concerned about the safety and security of its staff members.
In Syria, UNRWA has just released its latest figures on Palestine refugees currently in the country. There are 438,000 Palestine refugees (against 560,000 registered with UNRWA) remaining in Syria, 95 per cent of whom rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs. Member states’ delegates heard how the conflict has curtailed the Agency’s capacity to deliver essential services, with humanitarian access to seven Palestinian camps and around 28,900 Palestine refugees located in hard-to-reach and besieged areas remaining as the greatest challenge facing the Agency. UNRWA continues to provide a range of life-saving assistance to up to 418,000 Palestine refugees in the country, including vital cash and food assistance. Delegates were also briefed on the protection services UNRWA provides to refugees coping with the conflict, with a focus on child protection and gender-based violence. They also heard how the Agency is innovating in the field of distance learning to provide children who are unable to reach schools with multimedia learning resources online and through UNRWA TV and how it continues to deploy mobile health clinics to areas of active conflict and displacement to meet the needs of vulnerable refugees. They were also briefed on the Agency’s works to increase the resilience of Palestine refugees through the provision of microfinance loans and vocational training.
UNRWA continues to provide education, health, relief, social and infrastructural improvement services to approximately 270,000 Palestine refugees in Lebanon (out of an estimated 450,000 registered with UNRWA). It also provides humanitarian assistance and protection services to more than 32,000 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria. Member States’ delegates were briefed on the recurring clashes that have forced the Agency to intermittently suspend its services in Ein El Hilweh camp and on the funding requirements needed to complete the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp.
In Jordan, UNRWA provides services to over 2.2 million Palestine refugees, representing over 40 per cent of refugees registered with the Agency. It also provides emergency services to around 17,000 Palestine refugees displaced from Syria. Member states’ delegates heard how the Jordanian Government’s National Strategy for Human Resource Development – which, among other things, introduces curriculum changes, plans for constructing more schools and rehabilitating old ones, and reduced teaching workload for teachers – is expected to have an extensive impact on the UNRWA education programme in the country, including an increased financial burden. Delegates were also briefed on the Agency’s efforts to improve living conditions inside refugee camps through shelter and infrastructure improvement projects.
14 November 2016
Addressing the host governments and donor states’ representatives assembled for the second bi-annual UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting for 2016 held in Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl stresses the need to “put UNRWA on a more stable financial footing”.
He stressed the need for “predictability of funding,” noting that the repeated funding shortfalls the Agency has been forced to deal with in recent years are “putting at further risk the stability of the Middle East and the extraordinary results in human development of Palestine refugees achieved over decades.”
The Commissioner-General said that he is very encouraged by the potential he sees in his interactions with students through the school parliaments in UNRWA schools, whom he described as “democratically elected young students, who have a lot to teach us.”
A number of School parliamentarians were present at the Advisory Commission meeting, where they got the opportunity to make presentations and to engage representatives of host governments and donor states in very lively and high spirited discussions. “While not yet recognized citizens of a state of their own, no one can take way from them the fact of being citizens of the world,” said Mr. Krähenbühl of the UNRWA school parliamentarians.
Read the Commissioner-General’s full opening statement or watch it below.
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s closing remarks.
14 November 2016
Member States’ delegates were briefed on the operational context in Lebanon, which remained challenging, with political non-consensus serving to reinforce previous sectarian fault lines, isolationism and policies of self-preservation. Delegates also heard how support by the Government of Lebanon during a recent engagement on Nahr el-Bared is highly appreciated and how UNRWA continues to seek changes in restrictions to allow improvement in the livelihood and dignity of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. Delegates were also briefed on a headcount of Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS), which was concluded in August 2016 and counted 30,675 PRS, and on the shift to Social Safety Net Programme (SSNP) beneficiaries in food assistance from in-kind to cash, which has taken effect as of June 2016.
Financial support for UNRWA operations in Jordan has not kept pace with increased demand for services caused by the growing number of registered refugees and expanding needs. Member States’ delegates were briefed on the transition from food to cash and e-voucher assistance for SSNP beneficiaries in Jordan in the second quarter of 2016. Under this new modality, beneficiaries receive the equivalent of US$ 115 per year per person divided between e-vouchers and cash assistance.
The blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel entered its tenth year in June 2016. Together with repeated conflicts, the blockade continues to erode the economy, reduce jobs, and create a population ever more reliant on humanitarian assistance. Member States’ delegates heard how the number of Palestine refugees relying on UNRWA for food aid has increased from fewer than 80,000 in 2000 to almost 1 million today. Delegates were briefed on the reconstruction of totally destroyed houses, which has gathered momentum since inception of the residential stream of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, but remains a long-term challenge. They were also briefed on the Agency’s efforts to addresses youth unemployment through enhancing skills and employability for youth with different levels of education and the provision of job opportunities in various sectors. Delegates also heard how UNRWA works to mitigate the terrible effects recurring conflict and the blockade have had on the mental health of children in Gaza.
Member States’ delegates were briefed on how the continuation of violence and incidents of apparent excessive use of force by Israel security forces, the advancement of settlement plans, the continuation of demolitions of Palestinian structures, and the long-lasting restrictions on Palestinian movement and access continue to form the harsh reality on the ground for Palestine refugees and UNRWA. Delegates were briefed on the implementation of the Agency e-health system, which had been fully implemented in 36 health centres, as of 15 October 2016. They also heard how the SSNP improved the way food assistance was provided to the poorest Palestine refugees, by replacing the regular food parcels with e-cards.
23 June 2016
UNRWA conducted a West Bank field visit to Advisory Commission members and other donor representatives. Visiting different camps and refugee communities, the delegation was briefed on protection concerns of refugees in WB and the Agency’s role in responding to this situation.
30 May 2016
“The instinct to pioneer and innovate remains strong in UNRWA, and high on the list of our recent achievements are transformations in the classroom,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said in his opening address to the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting in Amman on 30 May. “We are shifting from rote memorization to critical thinking, and our special curriculum on human rights and tolerance is in every school for every refugee child – including in Gaza and Syria.”
Another remarkable success has been expanding UNRWA microfinance into the battle-scarred town of Husseinieh in Syria. “The entrepreneurial spirit of Palestinians helps keep the refugee community alive; it bodes well for local economic recovery and post-conflict reconstruction,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.
These developments are set in the context of region that is being torn by conflict. “Institutions of all kinds are being undermined and faith in the international community is weak. Violent extremism has spread far and wide. I am trying to address the situation of refugee youth, educated but unemployed at high rates, lacking hope in the future,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.
“This situation here is grave. UNRWA is alive and strong but another crisis is staring us in the face. Two crises in one year will be very difficult for the refugees to bear. We need your support.”
Read the Commissioner-General’s full statement.
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s closing statement.
14 November 2016
30 May 2016
UNRWA has developed a Resource Mobilization Strategy (RMS) to secure the resources necessary to deliver on its mandate in all five fields of operations for the next three years. The RMS, which was presented to the UNRWA Advisory Commission on 31 May, complements the Agency’s Medium-Term Strategy 2016-2021 (MTS), and addresses how best to obtain the resources necessary to meet the five strategic outcomes outlined in the strategy.
The Director of the UNRWA Representative Office to the European Union, Matthias Burchard, who presented the RMS to the Advisory Commission, thanked donors and hosts for their valuable guidance in developing the strategy. Key input from partners during consultations helped improve the document and ensure the MTS objectives remained at the heart of the strategy.
31 May 2016
UNRWA area staff working on the ground in education, health and relief and social services joined the programme directors to share fresh perspectives from the cutting edge of programme reform at the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting on 31 May. UNRWA embarked on a new Medium Term Strategy in January 2016 and in the past five months has progressed the reform agenda – strengthening services to refugees, and strengthening the Agency to deliver those services. In this context, the panel discussed the positive impact of UNRWA programme reforms in improving quality in service delivery, amidst the challenging circumstances of crisis and instability.
31 May 2016
In the West Bank, UNRWA has continued to robustly and visibly promote the rights of Palestine refugees living under occupation for almost 50 years. The Agency’s work is carried out in a context of accelerated demolitions of Palestinian homes and associated displacement, large-scale land confiscation, an upsurge of violence since October 2015, disenchantment with political processes – especially among youth – and, from some quarters, a loss of trust in UNRWA and the Agency’s purity of purpose.
Despite this, UNRWA has continued to progress on reforms to improve core services for registered Palestine refugees, who numbered 774,000 as of January this year.
In Gaza, recurrent conflict, blockade-related movement restrictions, political uncertainty, dilapidated public infrastructure and a devastated economy form the backdrop of life for 1.8 million people, 1.3 million of them Palestine refugees. Gaza’s youth – 65 per cent of the population are aged under 25 – are particularly affected.
Syria’s operational context continues to be defined by the armed conflict and its devastating effects on the civilian population, the Syrian economy and public services. Some regions experienced armed conflict, while cities such as Damascus, Homs, Lattakia, Hama and Tartous enjoy substantial periods of relative calm and host significant numbers of internally-displaced people. During the first two months of the year, efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis culminated in a cessation of hostilities that took effect on 27 February. While from most accounts this significantly reduced the toll of civilian deaths and injuries, armed engagements continued in Aleppo, the north eastern regions, parts of greater Damascus and Dera’a.
Lebanon is home to a mosaic of destabilizing threats ranging from inadequate national infrastructure, the ongoing threat of terrorism, political deadlock, social unrest and global political proxy interests. National health, education and infrastructure services are overstretched and a third of Lebanon’s young labour force cannot find work. For the most vulnerable – including over 40,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who depend on life-saving UNRWA services and Lebanon’s long-term Palestine refugees – daily life is increasingly dominated by poverty, debt and increased competition for work. Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon are also supporting the influx of PRS, which places additional demands on limited and ageing camp infrastructure and on UNRWA to provide basic services.
In the midst of regional conflict and fragility, peace has been maintained in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The northern border has seen limited numbers of refugees from Syria entering in 2016, and the number of PRS recorded with UNRWA in Jordan has gradually increased to 16,300 compared with 15,600 a year ago. While poverty levels among Palestine refugees living in Jordan are equal to the national average at 14 per cent, the poverty level of residents of the 10 official Palestine refugee camps is 31 per cent, and it is estimated that 80-85 percent of PRS live below the poverty line and are food insecure. Another group that remain particularly vulnerable are the Palestine refugees who entered Jordan from Gaza in 1967 and are legally considered to be foreigners.
20 November 2015
26 Advisory Commission (AdCom) members and other donor representatives visited the Gaza Strip on 18-19 November 2015. The delegation received an overview of the challenges currently facing Palestine refugee families in Gaza, now one year after the 2014 conflict, and met with senior staff to discuss the role of UNRWA in a context of ‘de-development’ and cyclical conflict.
17 November 2015
The Advisory Commission’s recommendations regarding the Medium Term Strategy (MTS) and the Agency’s strategic financial situation remained key reference points for management decision-making during the financial crisis this past summer, said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell at the November Advisory Commission meeting in Jordan last week. “The implementation of the MTS has already started in many ways,” said Ms. Mitchell. “The critical need for the Agency to stabilize its financial situation led to a very different budget and planning process for 2016 that has taken into consideration many of the changes needed in order to implement the MTS initiatives.” She highlighted the Agency’s priorities vis-à-vis the MTS recommendations for the coming period, including ensuring the sustainability of core UNRWA programmes, strengthening and expanding partnerships to improve the use of resources, and improving internal communications and oversight.
17 November 2015
The financial crisis of 2015 was discussed at the November meeting of the Advisory Commission, where members were briefed on the extraordinary efforts implemented by UNRWA and the international community to address a US$ 101 million deficit in the Agency’s 2015 core programme budget. According to updates provided at the meeting, both traditional and non-traditional donors contributed generously to the shortfall, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates covering around half of the deficit amount. The past year also saw UNRWA implementing a series of bold measures to reduce expenditure without significantly impacting vital and life-saving services provided to Palestine refugees.
Advisory Commission members were also presented with an overview of the results of the recent external evaluation of the Agency’s 2012-2015 Resource Mobilization Strategy (RMS). According to Uta Boellhoff, the Director of External Relations and Communications, the evaluation found that UNRWA had largely met the strategic objectives identified in the RMS, despite the structural and contextual challenges that UNRWA has faced and continues to face as it seeks to place itself on a sustainable financial footing. The forthcoming RMS for 2016-2018, to be released in early 2016, will seek to build upon these successes and set out new strategic objectives to ensure the Agency’s financial stability in the coming years.
16 November 2015
“UNRWA went through a special and demanding year and I am very satisfied that we have all together rediscovered the deep importance of dignity and accountability towards Palestine refugees. That we have rediscovered that UNRWA is not just any international organization, but is an agency with a soul and a huge impact in providing dignity and crucial services to a community that today still represents almost 40 percent of the world’s protracted refugees,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl told representatives of donor and host countries at the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting held in Jordan.
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s concluding remarks
16 November 2015
On 16 November, UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness moderated a panel discussion at the Advisory Commission regarding the untenable situation in Gaza in the lead-up to 2020. The panel featured Bo Schack, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza; Amal Siyam, General Director of the Women’s Affairs Centre in Gaza; Omar Shaban, Director of the Gaza-based think tank PalThink for Strategic Studies; and Fuad Bateh, Adviser for the Water Sector at the Office of the Quartet Representative. The panelists discussed the most pressing issues concerning Gaza today, emphasizing that the coastal enclave risks becoming unlivable by 2020 if drastic action is not taken.
Advisory Commission members were also presented with a short video highlighting the current situation in Gaza, which can be viewed online here.
16 November 2015
The reconstruction process in Gaza remains slow more than a year after last summer’s hostilities, while Palestine refugees across the region continue to be heavily affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, according to updates presented by the field directors at the November meeting of the Advisory Commission last week.
According to Bo Schack, the newly appointed Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, the emergency shelter programme remains critically underfunded, resulting in costly delays and extended displacement for thousands of Palestine refugee families in the coastal enclave. The crisis is further compounded by the ongoing blockade of Gaza, which continues to cripple the local economy and contribute to rising poverty rates and unemployment levels.
Meanwhile, Michael Kingsley-Nyah, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, said that approximately 450,000 Palestine refugees are estimated to reside in Syria, with over 95 per cent reliant on UNRWA to meet their minimum basic needs. Humanitarian access remains a primary concern for UNRWA Syria, with more than 40,000 Palestine refugees in the country residing in areas frequently inaccessible to the Agency.
Director of UNRWA Operations in Jordan Roger Davies noted that at least half a million Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) are estimated to currently reside in Jordan, placing additional pressures on the Kingdom’s already-strained economy, infrastructure and public services. With borders currently closed to the entry of additional PRS and some PRS having been refouled, UNRWA continues to appeal to the Jordanian authorities to review its policies towards PRS, said Mr. Davies.
Insufficient funding forced UNRWA to suspend cash-for-rent assistance to PRS residing in Lebanon in July – the main source of income for 98 per cent of the approximately 43,000 PRS estimated to be in the country – according to Matthias Schmale, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. Mr. Schmale also discussed the importance of completing the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared, noting that UNRWA Lebanon was forced to suspend relief support for displaced families from the camp last month. The move provoked strong opposition from the local community and affected service delivery, he said.
According to Felipe Sanchez, the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, the period since June 2015 has seen increased threat of evictions and settlement expansion; growing settler aggressiveness; and a rise in tensions related to holy sites, particularly with regards to Israeli policies and restrictions in and around Al-Aqsa Compound. He expressed serious concerns over the high number of demolitions between January and October 2015, which have displaced at least 575 Palestinians, around a third of whom were Palestine refugees.
26 July 2015
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is holding an extraordinary session of its Advisory Commission today, to discuss the Agency’s most severe financial crisis ever. The Commission will review the growing risk that UNRWA may have to delay the start of the academic year in some 700 schools for half a million students across the Middle East unless the deficit of $101 million can be fully funded before the school year is due to start.
15 June 2015
I ask you today: If you were given 30 seconds to describe landmarks of human history since 1950, what would they list? The Korean War and the start of the Cold War; desegregation in the United States; uprisings in Europe in the 1960s and in the Arab world in the 2010s; the end of colonialism and apartheid; the rise and fall of dictatorships in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa; the Berlin Wall built and brought down; and the destruction of the towers. Genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. Olympic Games in 15 cities and football World Cups in 17 countries. And throughout this entire period, Palestine refugees have remained refugees.
Click here to read the full statement or watch below
Click below to listen to the Commissioner-General’s concluding remarks
16 June 2015
"The isolation, exclusion and dispossession of Palestine refugees in Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon represent a time-bomb for the Middle East region", according to Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Speaking at a meeting of UNRWA's Advisory Commission of major donors and host governments in Amman, Mr Krähenbühl said more than five million Palestine refugees today "face an existential crisis on many fronts" which he said was "a denial of dignity and rights that must be addressed".
Click here to read more.
15 June 2015
The on-going crisis in Syria was a consistent them in the reports the Advisory Commission heard from field directors.
Michael Kingsley-Nyah, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria, updated the Commission on the operational context in Syria. Kingsley stated that “protracted, complex and widespread armed conflict” is exacerbating poverty, posing protection threats and causing “profound hardship for Palestine refugees.” Despite growing security risks, UNRWA is striving to maintain regular programmes alongside a robust humanitarian response, a recent example being the humanitarian aid to civilian residents of Yarmouk displaced to the areas around the camp.
Director of UNRWA in Jordan Roger Davies drew the members’ attention to the strain that over half a million Syrian refugees are placing on the country’s resources. Davies warned the Commission that the 2.2 million Palestine refugees and the 15,600 Palestine refugees and their families from Syria registered with UNRWA are in danger of “being overlooked and possibly forgotten. “
In Lebanon, Palestine refugees from Syria are increasingly vulnerable due to issues with entry, legal status and residency and the obstacles to unemployment and education faced by Palestine refugees in Lebanon more generally. Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon Matthias Schmale reported that UNRWA interventions in cash assistance for food and housing are more critical now than ever.
15 June 2015
Advisory Commission members heard from Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Felipe Sanchez about challenges facing Palestine refugees in the West Bank. Of great concern is the advancement of plans by the Israeli authorities to transfer and resettle Palestinian Bedouin communities living in Area C to the urbanized townships of Al Jabal, Nweima and Fasayil.
Also of concern in the West Bank are on-going demolitions (233 Palestinian structures were demolished between 1 January and 19 May this year), settler violence and accelerated settlement expansion. Sanchez reassured the Advisory Commission that the West Bank Field Office is continuing its strong public and private advocacy efforts, as well as psychosocial support, to address human rights violations experienced by Palestine refugees.
15 June 2015
The pace of reconstruction in Gaza, lack of funding and the dire humanitarian situation on the ground were major features in report to the Advisory Commission. outgoing Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip Robert Turner’s. Turner reported that morale is low; “whatever hope for positive change had been left among Gaza residents has evaporated.” The blockade is entering its ninth year and the impact of isolation, particularly on the younger generation, cannot be measured. Turner warned Advisory Commission members that “a return to an escalation of hostilities seems inevitable if the relevant actors do not take the necessary corrective actions.”
1.3 million Palestine refugees continue looking to UNRWA for the provision of basic services. UNRWA continues to be the only stable institution in the Gaza Strip, as it has been over the past several decades.
15 June 2015
The Advisory Commission welcomed the completion of the Agency’s Medium Term Strategy for 2016 – 2021. The process of developing the Medium Term Strategy had taken two years of intensive internal and external consultation, study and analysis. The document sets a direction for UNRWA’s work over the next six years that will best enable it to address growing and deepening needs of Palestine refugees in all fields of operation. The Strategy articulates how the Agency will deliver the most cost-effective and impactful services possible. UNRWA aims to protect and promote the rights of refugees under international law, to protect and reduce the burden of disease, to ensure school-aged children complete quality, equitable and inclusive basic education, to strengthen refugee capabilities for increased livelihoods opportunities and to help refugees meet their basic human needs of food, shelter and environmental health. The Strategy demands solid resource mobilization and strong partnerships at all levels. In the Strategy, UNRWA reiterates the unsustainability of the refugee condition and impresses upon the international community the urgency of resolving the plight of Palestine refugees.
7 May 2015
UNRWA Advisory Commission Chair Per Orneus visited Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in April to meet UNRWA staff, government officials, refugees and service providers, in addition to visiting refugee camps and gaining insight into the issues that define each field.
A key message to emerge from the visit was that the challenges faced by refugees are not getting any easier, despite the commitment of UNRWA and its staff. Stability is a growing concern in each field against the backdrop of broader regional developments.
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9 December 2014
The UN General Assembly has voted with an overwhelming majority to admit Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to full membership of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); the Agency’s consultative body which advises on key strategic decisions.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said, “Both Brazil and the UAE have been exemplary partners , providing steadfast support to UNRWA operations, including during and after the 50-day Gaza conflict. Membership of the Advisory Commission now seals their place and I welcome them to the UNRWA family.”
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17 November 2014
At our last meeting, I described the situation of Palestine refugee communities as unsustainable. Since then, the trends have become even bleaker. The pressures on Palestinians and Palestine refugees are immense and the threats to their lives, livelihoods or future are of such magnitude that hope is needed somewhere on the horizon. Hope - in this most unstable region - can only and must be brought about by resolute political action.
Click here to read the full statement or below to hear the Commissioner-General's concluding remarks.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the biannual UNRWA Adivsory Commission meeting.
The growing crisis in the Gaza Strip was the primary issue discussed at the November UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting.
Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl emphasized that lifting the blockade is crucial to preventing another military escalation. Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner added that although the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is necessary, it cannot substitute for lifting the blockade. Large-scale reconstruction in Gaza can only be implemented if resources are available through the GRM, the blockade is lifted and the political situation stabilizes, Mr. Turner said.
Paying tribute to UNRWA colleagues, Mr. Krähenbühl emphasized that running 24-hour emergency shelters for almost 300,000 internally displaced persons is no easy feat. UNRWA effectively supported the entire population of the Gaza Strip – some 1.76 million people – throughout the emergency, while maintaining core services where security allowed, including health centres, food and water distribution and sanitation services in the camps.
In the aftermath of the military escalation, the most critical interventions are shelter repair, transitional shelter support and reconstruction.
As conflict-torn Syria braces for winter, UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation of Palestine refugees displaced and trapped in besieged areas.
Director of UNRWA Operations in Syria Michael Kingsley-Nyinah told the UNRWA Advisory Commission that UNRWA is the only United Nations agency with the staff, skills and operational capacity to directly address Palestine refugee needs in Syria.
UNRWA innovation to adapt to the emergency context has included the development of self-learning materials for students who cannot access schools, and the establishment of health points in several areas, including Yarmouk camp, where access to health centres is difficult.
Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan are facing challenges similar to their counterparts in Gaza and Syria, the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting heard.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, access restrictions, the Barrier, forced displacement, demolitions and poverty are just a few of the manifestations of the ongoing Israeli occupation.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl drew Advisory Commission members’ attention to the increasingly tense situation in East Jerusalem. While Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Felipe Sanchez highlighted the sharp increase in the number Palestine refugees killed and injured by Israeli security forces over the past year and the unprecedented pace of settlement expansion. Bedouin communities in the West Bank received special attention in an informal session on protection due to the impending Israeli government plans to forcibly relocate them to the Nweima township.
In Lebanon, Palestine refugees face exclusion and limited access to resources, a problem exacerbated by the presence of 42,000 new Palestine refugees from Syria.
Palestine refugees in Jordan also face hardship, including thousands living in sub-standard shelters in need of rehabilitation and increasing numbers living in abject poverty, particularly those living in camps.
The life-saving support UNRWA has provided to Palestine refugees for 64 years has only been possible due to the enduring generosity of Arab and Palestinian partners, the UNRWA Advisory Committee was told.
Arab and Palestinian partners have stood with Palestine refugees and UNRWA as the refugees have faced constant hardship and recurring crises with resilience. This support cannot be overstated. Beyond providing assistance and services, such support enables a new generation of Palestine refugees to work towards reaching their full human potential.
Sixty-six years after the Palestine refugee crisis began, the condition of the refugees is unsustainable. The Advisory Committee meeting was told that the period covered by the next UNRWA Medium Term Strategy – 2016-2021 – will be among the most difficult in Palestine refugee history and a period of growing complexity for UNRWA operations. Palestine refugees face a human development and protection crisis exacerbated by armed conflict in Syria and the Gaza Strip and ongoing discrimination in the occupied Palestinian territory. The absence of a solution to the refugee question, and the profound challenges of socioeconomic development, will continue to increase the demand for core UNRWA services and emergency assistance.
UNRWA will remain the lead international actor in reducing the impact of threats to the Palestine refugee community during the 2016-2021 period. To that end, the Agency has identified five strategic outcomes that it will work towards with the assistance of regional, national and local partners. These outcomes are:
UNRWA will establish a stronger foundation of efficient and effective management in order to achieve these outcomes.
24 June 2014
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Advisory Commission conducted a field visit to Burj Barajneh, Shatila and Rashidieh Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon on 18 and 19 June for a delegation consisting of Head of the European Union Delegation in Jerusalem, John Gatt-Rutter; Senior Advisor at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, Karin Gatt-Rutter; Deputy Representative of Ireland in Ramallah, Stephanie O’Brien; AusAid Head of Cooperation in Ramallah, Joel Thorpe; Head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Jerusalem, Véronique Hulmann; United Kingdom team leader in Jerusalem, Henrietta Hawxwell; Senior Advisor and Programme Advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trine Rønning Mathisen; Samar Sayegh-Makhlouf; and the Finnish desk officer responsible for UNRWA, Anna Merrifield.
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18 June 2014
The AdCom meets twice a year, usually in June and November, to discuss issues of importance to UNRWA, striving to reach consensus and provide advice and assistance to the Commissioner-General of the Agency. These photos were taken at the most recent Advisory Commission meeting held on 16-17 June 2014 in Amman, Jordan.
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17 June 2014
Speaking at the meeting of the UNRWA Advisory Commission in Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said that a powerful sense of the unsustainability of the situation of Palestine refugees has emerged from his first visits to Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and from his discussions with refugees and UNRWA colleagues. “I mean this in overall human terms, from social and economic perspectives to the dimension of human rights, security and dignity,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.
Click here to read the Commissioner-General’s full statement.
Click here to read a summary of the Commissioner-General concluding remarks or below to listen to them in full.
16-17 June 2014
“When combining the pressures on the Palestine refugees with the achievements we have seen over several decades, I am confident in saying that UNRWA’s contribution to human development, to addressing emergency needs and to stability remains as important as ever”, said Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. One of the Agency’s first priorities to keep our efforts moving forward is the development of a medium-term strategy (MTS) for 2016 to 2021. Working with host authorities and supporters to examine the current situation of Palestine refugees and its evolution over the coming years, UNRWA will better understand the community’s needs and the kinds of services we must provide. With this knowledge, the MTS identifies five major outcomes: meeting Palestine refugees’ basic needs, ensuring healthy choices and treatment, providing education for refugee children, improving livelihoods and strengthening the protection of refugees under international law. These outcomes will structure UNRWA work, providing an overall focus and consistency across the five fields while allowing for adaptation to local circumstances.
16-17 June 2014
The Agency’s financial situation in 2014 presents numerous challenges that will require active management and the efforts of both UNRWA and its supporters. We will work to preserve and strengthen our relationships with our traditional partners while reaching out to new ones; at the same time, we will work internally to ensure lasting financial sustainability, as we have done in the past. Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl emphasized that UNRWA planning would focus on better analysing how we work to best meet Palestine refugees’ needs.
16 June 2014
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has launched a Ramadan Appeal for US$ 27 million to enable Palestine refugees trapped in Syria to be able to buy food in Ramadan.
Announcing the appeal, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said: “As we come up to Ramadan, we can foresee a prospect of thousands of Palestinian refugees going hungry because very simply they do not have enough money to buy food. Their livelihoods and often their houses have been destroyed. The US$ 27 million requested would enable us to distribute cash to 440,000 of the needy through our proven and very reliable cash-distribution network.”
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