United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

How Does UNRWA Promote The Protection Of Palestine Refugees?

Protection is what UNRWA does to safeguard and advance the rights of Palestine refugees. In particular, UNRWA:

  • Delivers its services in a manner that promotes and respects the rights of beneficiaries
  • Promotes respect for Palestine refugees’ rights through monitoring and reporting of violations and by engaging in private and public advocacy
  • Ensures that protection needs are addressed in all aspects of programming, policies and procedures including addressing cases of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable groups, including women, children, and persons with disabilities through programmatic responses and referral to external partners
  • Advocates in public statements as well as private interventions with a broad range of interlocutors to promote the protection of refugee rights.

The Agency is not responsible for security or law and order in refugee camps and has no police force or intelligence service. The responsibility for ensuring the physical security of Palestine refugees residing in the Agency’s fields of operations falls within the sovereignty and sole responsibility of the respective host government.

Why Is UNHCR Not Responsible For Palestine Refugees?

In 1949, the UN General Assembly established two different UN refugee agencies – the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – to respond to distinct refugee crises.

Would The Palestine Refugee Question Be Solved If Palestine Refugees Came Within UNHCR’s Mandate?

UNRWA and UNHCR have distinct functions. UNRWA is a direct service provider. At the core of these services are education and health services, essential for the human development of Palestine refugees. UNHCR is not a direct service provider. UNHCR offers temporary protection and assistance.

Why Can’t UNRWA Resettle Palestine Refugees?

Unlike UNHCR, UNRWA does not have a mandate to resettle Palestine refugees and has no authority to seek lasting durable solutions for refugees. UNRWA is mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide services to Palestine refugees, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. Palestine refugees within the Agency’s fields of operations are excluded from the mandate of UNHCR, which has a resettlement mandate.

It is worth noting that the protracted situation in which Palestine refugees live is not unique. Resettlement requires the consent not only of refugees, but also of the receiving state. UNHCR estimates that 78 per cent of all refugees under its mandate – 16 million refugees - were in protracted refugee situations in 2019. According to UNHCR data, of the 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR protection in 2020, less than 2 per cent of refugees (251,000) were repatriated to their country of origin. Far fewer were resettled in a third country (34,400) or naturalized as citizens in their country of asylum (33,746). The vast majority remained refugees pending a solution to their plight.

What Is UNRWA Doing To Help Refugees Live A Dignified Life In Host Countries, Until A Just And Lasting Solution To Their Plight Is Found?

UNRWA recognizes that advancing human development for Palestine refugees requires a multi-dimensional approach involving poverty alleviation, promoting respect for human rights, access to quality health and educational services, reductions in inequality, and economic growth. Through its services, encompassing education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance, UNRWA helps Palestine refugees to achieve their full human development potential, become self-reliant, and live in dignity. From using the host country’s school curricula – so students can pursue further education in public school systems – to modern vocational training, refugees enjoy greater opportunities to achieve basic socioeconomic wellbeing.

In addition, the Agency is a strong advocate for the protection and promotion of the rights of Palestine refugees until a just solution is found. This involves advocacy with duty bearers to uphold their obligations towards Palestine refugees in all UNRWA fields of operations, including those living in the occupied Palestinian territory and under blockade in the Gaza Strip, those facing discrimination and denial of rights that severely affect their living standards in Lebanon, and those experiencing acute vulnerability in Jordan, in particular certain categories of Palestine refugees who suffer from exclusion. UNRWA has also advocated for the protection of Palestine refugees impacted by the Syria conflict.

Despite the steadfast commitment and efforts by UNRWA to advance the human development of Palestine refugees, there are numerous factors severely restricting many Palestine refugees from attaining their full potential. These include the ongoing denial of rights, profound constraints on socioeconomic opportunities, and the exposure to multiple crises – often spilling across borders – in addition to the failure of the international community to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestine refugee situation. 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.

Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Copyright© United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

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