What is the UNRWA agency and why its storm?

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a United Nations agency established in 1949.

UNRWA today is facing a diplomatic storm as several Western governments have suspended their funding over allegations that some of its staff were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel by Hamas.
The agency’s head, Philippe Lazzarini, has warned that the lifesaving assistance on which two million Gazans rely could be about to end.
UNRWA has opened an investigation into the suspected employees and severed ties with them. UNRWA has also faced criticism from Israel and some watchdogs for its educational material, which they claim promotes anti-Semitism, hate, and intolerance.
UNRWA has denied these accusations and said that many of the books in question were not used in its schools.UNRWA is appealing for more support and donations from the international community to continue its humanitarian and human development services for Palestine refugees in the Near East.

Its primary mandate is to provide assistance and protection to Palestinian refugees who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict and their descendants.

Key points about UNRWA include:

  1. Establishment: UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302(IV) in December 1949. It began operations in May 1950.
  2. Mandate: The agency’s mandate includes providing education, healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees in its areas of operation.
  3. Areas of Operation: UNRWA operates in five areas: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip.
  4. Services Provided:
    • Education: UNRWA runs schools for Palestinian refugee children, providing both basic and higher education.
    • Healthcare: The agency operates health clinics and provides essential healthcare services.
    • Relief and Social Services: UNRWA provides various social services, including vocational training, and offers financial and material assistance to those in need.
    • Emergency Assistance: UNRWA responds to emergencies and conflicts, providing aid to affected Palestinian refugees.
  5. Funding: UNRWA relies heavily on voluntary contributions from member states and other donors. The agency faces financial challenges, and funding shortfalls have been a recurrent issue.
  6. Unique Status: Unlike other refugee agencies, UNRWA’s mandate is specifically tailored to the Palestinian refugee situation. It was established as a temporary agency, but its existence and operations have continued for several decades.
  7. Controversies: UNRWA has been a subject of political and financial controversies over the years. There have been debates about its mandate, effectiveness, and the impact of its operations on the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  8. Advocacy and Diplomacy: UNRWA engages in advocacy efforts to address the rights and needs of Palestinian refugees. It also interacts with various stakeholders, including host countries, to ensure the well-being of the refugee population.

It’s important to note that discussions and perspectives on UNRWA can be influenced by the broader geopolitical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the complexities surrounding the status of Palestinian refugees.