Last updated on: 5/14/2008 5:07:00 PM PST

What Is the Role of the United Nations in the Palestinian Refugee Issue?



General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The United States Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a Oct. 10, 2003 Issue Brief for Congress titled "Palestinians and Middle East Peace: Issues for the United States," contained the following:

"Of the 8 million Palestinians [worldwide], 3.7 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as refugees from the 1947-1948 war... UNRWA provides shelter, food, medical and dental care, and education benefits for the 3.7 million Palestinian refugees from the 1947-1948 war. Not all the registered refugees receive all the benefits; only 1.2 million live in 59 refugee camps scattered across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip."

Oct. 10, 2003 - Congressional Research Service (CRS) 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) website (accessed May 18, 2005), in an overview of the organization, stated:

"Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 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 2005.

Since its establishment, the Agency has delivered its services in times of relative calm in the Middle East, and in times of hostilities. It has fed, housed and clothed tens of thousands of fleeing refugees and at the same time educated and given health care to hundreds of thousands of young refugees.

UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees and its contributions to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees. Originally envisaged as a temporary organization, the Agency has gradually adjusted its programmes to meet the changing needs of the refugees. Today, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services - education, health, relief and social services - to over 4.1 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East."

May 18, 2005 - United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) 

The UN Secretary-General's bulletin from Feb. 17, 2000 on the Organization of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), contained the following:

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

(a) Provides relief and works programs to more than 3.6 million registered refugees through its headquarters in Gaza and Amman and its field offices located in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria;

(b) Provides educational services, including general and higher education as well as vocational, technical and teacher education to meet the basic educational needs of Palestine refugees and to enhance their educational and employment opportunities, with professional and technical assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO);

(c) Provides a wide range of health services, including disease prevention and treatment, health protection and promotion and environmental and family health programs to meet the basic health needs of Palestine refugees and to improve their overall state of health, with professional and technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO);

(d) Provides basic relief and social services to assist the refugees in meeting their needs and to improve their capacity to become more self-reliant. In this context an important objective is poverty alleviation. In addition, UNRWA seeks to ensure that the basic requirements for survival are made available to the most needy Palestine refugees classified as special hardship cases;

(e) Works towards reducing Palestine refugees' dependence on material assistance by providing skills training, income generation projects and other community services;

(f) Develops initiatives in the field of social and economic development in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

Feb. 17, 2000 - United Nations (UN) 

Dilip Hiro, author and journalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East / A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:

"Following a resolution in December 1949 by the United Nations General Assembly to care for those Palestinians who had lost their homes and means of livelihood during the 1948-1949 Palestine War, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was created at the U.N.'s offices in Vienna, Austria. This meant having to deal with 914,221 Palestinians, of whom some 500,000 qualified for UNRWA relief. Following Israel's seizure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, there were a further 335,000 displaced Palestinians, of whom 193,600 were eligible for UNRWA support.

Financed by voluntary contributions of the member governments, UNRWA's mandate is renewed regularly to provide camps, food, clothing, schools, vocational training, and health clinics, often working in cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)."

2003 - Dilip Hiro, MA