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        General Assembly
28 August 2012

General Assembly
Official Records
Sixty-seventh Session
Supplement No. 13

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

1 January-31 December 2011

Symbols of United Nations documents are composed of letters combined with figures. Mention of such a symbol indicates a reference to a United Nations document.

Letter of transmittal

28 August 2012

I have the honour to submit to the General Assembly my report on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for 2011. The report is submitted in compliance with paragraph 21 of Assembly resolution 302 (IV) and paragraph 8 of resolution 1315 (XIII). It describes the Agency’s operational context, the principal legal matters affecting UNRWA during the reporting period, the main developments in the Agency’s reform process, operational priorities by field of operation, and the Agency’s financial situation. It also presents programme objectives within the framework of the Agency’s human development goals, in line with its medium-term strategy for 2010-2015.

The Advisory Commission, which with the accession of Luxembourg in 2012 comprises 25 member States and three observer delegations, endorsed the draft of the report during its June 2012 session. The Commission’s ongoing engagement and constructive advice continues to be of value to me and to UNRWA senior management. In accordance with usual practice, I have also shared a draft of the report with representatives of the Government of Israel.

I take this opportunity to update the General Assembly briefly on key developments in 2012. We are gravely concerned about the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, which has claimed the lives of a large and growing number of civilians. The conflict is directly affecting an increasing number of Palestine refugee communities with serious consequences for their well-being and safety, including in Dera’a and Yarmouk, where violence in mid-2012 caused displacement and loss of life. Numbering approximately 500,000, the Palestine refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic have historically enjoyed social inclusion in their host communities and civic and socioeconomic rights on a par with their Syrian hosts, and until February this year, they were largely spared the worst of the violence. However, as the conflict has intensified and spread, Palestine refugees’ vulnerability has deepened, their communities have been destabilized, their exposure to violence has increased and their futures have been rendered uncertain. UNRWA is also very concerned about its staff, whose safety and security is of the Agency’s utmost concern. We have called on all parties to take steps to ensure the protection of the Palestine refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic, and to ensure the Agency’s unhindered access and the supply of essential goods to refugee communities.

UNRWA faces other unique challenges, in particular in the occupied Palestinian territory. As reported last year, the Israeli authorities eased the blockade of the Gaza Strip in June 2010 with positive repercussions on the Agency’s operations. Between then and July 2012, 86 UNRWA projects (for a total amount of $337 million) were approved, aimed at reconstructing part of the Gaza Strip’s devastated and crumbling infrastructure, including refugee housing, schools and health clinics. As at 30 July 2012, the Agency was implementing projects valued at $189 million, for 35 schools and more than 1,900 shelters. Despite progress with reconstruction, UNRWA is deeply concerned that delays in further approving the large number of planned projects and constraints in the importation of construction and other necessary materials will adversely affect key aspects of reconstruction, including for refugees who have waited years for their demolished shelters to be rebuilt.

Vital to the social and economic recovery of the Gaza Strip is the establishment of normal conditions of trade and commerce, and of movement for its 1.7 million people, who have endured years of confinement en masse. Its recovery and growth will be possible only with the lifting of the blockade that indiscriminately suffocates its economy and people.

As in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services to the refugees in the West Bank and faces extraordinary challenges in achieving its mission to promote the highest possible standards of human development for the refugees. Wide-ranging movement restrictions, settlements and their expansion, and the impact of the barrier on communities along its entire length conspire to limit development in all its forms.

Despite the preceding and other challenges, the Agency remains committed to improving the quality and effectiveness of services, with good results. We are engaged in ambitious reforms to that end, working closely with our host and donor partners to help us develop and implement them. The reforms are essential to helping to equip the refugees with the twenty-first-century skills required to achieve a decent standard of living, and to better assist the most vulnerable through interventions which not only mitigate poverty but also help them to escape the trap of poverty. We are therefore concerned about funding inadequacies that pose a risk to UNRWA, its reforms and — most seriously — the core services that those reforms seek to improve, and on which the refugees rely. The Agency appreciates that the continuing global financial crisis has constrained humanitarian and development assistance globally. Within the context of a resource mobilization strategy that redoubles efforts to broaden the Agency’s donor base, we continue to appeal to all stakeholders to provide the support we need to fulfil our General Assembly mandate to promote the human development of the refugees.

The challenges facing UNRWA are made even greater as a result of the profound changes sweeping the region, and the continuing uncertainty about the future that plagues Palestine refugee communities. Amidst instability, the certainty of support by the international community remains a pillar of hope for the refugees, who turn to UNRWA in growing numbers for basic services essential to their human development. The well-being of the refugees, and ensuring UNRWA’s effectiveness in contributing to it, remain a shared commitment of the international community pending a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all its aspects, including the refugee question.

(Signed) Filippo Grandi

Letter dated 19 June 2012 from the Chair of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to the Commissioner-General of the Agency

At its regular session, held at the Dead Sea, Jordan, on 18 and 19 June 2012, the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) considered the draft annual report on UNRWA activities and operations, covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2011, to be submitted to the General Assembly at its forthcoming sixth-seventh session.

The Commission commends UNRWA for its efforts to continue delivering its programmes and services to Palestine refugees in its fields of operation and underscores the vital role of UNRWA in contributing to regional stability until a just solution is reached, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions (General Assembly resolutions 194 (III) and 302 (IV)).

The Commission remains gravely concerned about the volatile situation in the Gaza Strip and the ensuing loss of life. The restrictions on access imposed by the Israeli authorities along with outbreaks of violence affect disproportionately the refugees, contributing to increased need for UNRWA services. Although projects for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip amounting to $167 million were approved, the Commission notes that UNRWA continues to face challenges in receiving approvals for remaining projects for thousands of refugees awaiting shelter. The Commission emphasizes the need for unhindered access for all goods necessary for the Agency to carry out its humanitarian and human development activities and for the economic and social recovery of communities gravely affected by the regime of movement restrictions.

The Commission notes with deep concern that the separation barrier, closures and other restrictions on movement, demolitions and destruction of homes and economic assets by the Israeli authorities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including those with respect to East Jerusalem, continue to cause hardship for the affected population. These restrictions hinder economic development, specifically access to sources of employment and essential goods and services, as well as the ability of UNRWA to carry out its mandated tasks. The Commission calls for the removal of all Israeli restrictions regarding the movement of UNRWA staff and goods in line with the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access concluded between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the 1967 Comay-Michelmore agreement between UNRWA and the Government of Israel.

The Commission calls on all parties to fully respect United Nations resolutions and international law, including international humanitarian law.

The Commission remains concerned about the lack of Agency access to, and information on, its staff detained by relevant authorities.

The Commission notes the decline in living conditions for Palestine refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, especially those who are in close proximity to areas experiencing violence, and the resulting increase in their needs. The Commission welcomes the Agency’s efforts to continue to provide services under difficult circumstances in coordination and cooperation with the Government. The Commission expresses its concern about the safety of refugees and stresses the special vulnerability of refugees in close proximity to areas experiencing violence.

The Commission notes the Agency’s continued efforts to address the special needs of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. The Commission remains concerned about the security of UNRWA staff and notes the efforts of UNRWA and the host Government to prevent further attacks on UNRWA staff. It stresses the need for sustained efforts to help refugees in Lebanon expand their opportunities and improve their living conditions without prejudice to other rights they enjoy as refugees.

The Commission notes the Agency’s completion of projects in the first phase of reconstruction of Nahr El-Bared camp and funding shortfalls that continue to challenge the provision of assistance to those displaced following its destruction in 2007.

In Jordan, which hosts approximately 40 per cent of the refugees registered with UNRWA, the Commission stresses the need to ensure services delivered to the refugees are optimal in scope and quality. The Commission encourages the continued and close cooperation between the Government and the Agency.

The Commission restates its view that the enduring hardships of Palestine refugees underscore the critical role of UNRWA. The Commission remains concerned with the long-term structural underfunding of the Agency, which has had an impact on service delivery. The Commission acknowledges and greatly appreciates the long-term

support of major donors for UNRWA operations. At the same time, the Commission recognizes the efforts made by UNRWA through its resource mobilization strategy to deepen and diversify its donor base and further develop its resource mobilization efforts. It urges the international donor community as a whole to mobilize the resources needed, particularly for the Agency’s General Fund, to secure proper service delivery.

Within the Advisory Commission forum, the Agency is encouraged to continue its pursuit of sustainable, efficient and relevant quality services to Palestine refugees, to reach its human development goals. The Advisory Commission encourages UNRWA to continue its dialogue with stakeholders to further clarify budget issues, its decision-making process, and resource allocation methodology. Greater understanding and improved consultation will enable the Commission to provide more adequate and timely advice to UNRWA regarding its operations, programmes and key decisions. Further clarity would assist UNRWA in being more persuasive vis-à-vis traditional and new donors when fundraising.

The Commission notes and remains concerned about the sharp decline in funding for the Agency’s annual emergency appeals for the occupied Palestinian territory between 2009 and 2011 as well as for the “restoring dignity” appeal for Nahr El-Bared.

The Commission welcomes the Agency’s reforms of its programmes in health and education under the sustaining change plan, and improved effectiveness in delivering services to refugees in cooperation with host countries. The Commission urges UNRWA to continue the dialogue with stakeholders in the implementation of those reforms and to continue to incorporate greater efficiencies in programming. For the reform of the relief and social services programme, the Commission notes the need for further consultations and dialogue with stakeholders. The Commission also welcomes the findings of the external evaluation of the Agency’s organizational development and its efforts to implement the recommendations. The Commission further notes the strides UNRWA has made in the introduction of an enterprise resource planning system and the support the Agency requires to complete its implementation; the development of new communications tools; and the introduction of more transparent and detailed financial reporting, including the adoption of the new accounting system, which is compliant with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.

The Commission highly commends the support by host countries and host authorities and donors to the work and activities of the Agency.

(Signed) Mahmood Aqrabawi
Chair of the Advisory Commission

Chapter I
Contextual overview

A. Political, economic and security developments

1. In 2011, the Palestine refugees in the five fields of operation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) experienced varying political, economic and security conditions against the background of events in the Middle East and North Africa. The attention paid to the events of 2011 brought the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process and the issue of Palestine refugees — already vulnerable and suffering the effects of over six decades of displacement and dispossession — into stark relief. In all five fields of operation — Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — the refugees had to contend with the impact of the continuing global economic downturn and persistent funding shortfalls which precluded the Agency from meeting their basic needs. Their enjoyment of rights under international law remained — in many cases — limited or absent, and can only be addressed through a peaceful resolution to the conflict and a just and durable solution to the refugees’ plight, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.

2. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was characterized by a continuing political impasse, conflict and restrictions on rights and opportunities for Palestinians, including refugees. The blockade of the Gaza Strip, eased but not lifted since June 2010, had a significant impact on all aspects of Gazans’ lives, two thirds of whom are Palestine refugees, while in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli policies and practices continued to restrict progress.

3. In the Gaza Strip, the situation remained dire. Poverty remained high, with 54 per cent of the population food insecure and over 75 per cent, or 1 million Gazans, dependent on international aid.1 Within that context, the Gaza Strip did experience an economic recovery in 2011, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growing approximately 23 per cent and the broad unemployment rate dropping from 44 per cent in 2010 to 33 per cent in late 2011.2 Nevertheless, those gains were driven in large part by the “tunnel economy” — trade conducted by means of the tunnels extending under the Gaza Strip — rather than through production and trade to and from the Gaza Strip. Although measures introduced by the Government of Israel to relax restrictions on consumer goods also helped, continued restrictions on certain imports and the ban on exports to the Gaza Strip’s traditional markets of Israel and the West Bank prevented meaningful and sustainable economic development. The UNRWA three-year, $661 million reconstruction plan saw further improvement in 2011. Following lengthy and detailed negotiations with the Government of Israel, the Agency was able to import construction materials for a number of UNRWA projects. Of the total portfolio of projects to be constructed, projects worth $167 million were approved in 2011, all during the first half of the year. Approval of housing projects remained urgent, as thousands of refugees were awaiting shelters, some living in substandard and unhealthy conditions for many years. Delays in approvals and cumbersome and costly procedures for the import and use of construction materials, as well as the use of only a single crossing point, were all challenges to the Agency’s ability to meet such needs. The Agency continued to work closely with the Israeli authorities in attempting to find solutions to expedite those processes. In 2011, access for people through the Rafah crossing with Egypt improved in comparison with 2010.

4. In reference to security, the situation in the Gaza Strip remained volatile, with hundreds of rockets, mortars, grad missiles and other projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel. Israeli forces conducted hundreds3 of military operations against the Gaza Strip, including incursions, air strikes, border firings and firings at sea, including towards fishermen. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 108 Palestinians were killed in 2011 and 467 were injured in conflict-related violence, as compared with 72 killed and 286 injured in 2010.4 Three Israelis were killed and a number of others injured from weapons launched from the Gaza Strip. In May, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement that called for the establishment of a temporary government and parliamentary elections within a year. In October an exchange agreed between Hamas and Israel resulted in the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 477 Palestinian prisoners. A further 550 Palestinians were released in December as part of the same agreement.

5. During the reporting period, the United Nations continued to characterize the situation in the West Bank as a protection crisis with humanitarian consequences, in which vulnerability remained high for large parts of the refugee population. A number of factors contributed to that situation, including the following: controls on the economy and on the movement of goods, services and people; impediments to construction and infrastructure investment; the expansion of settlements and the associated humanitarian impacts and violence; the construction of the barrier and resulting loss of Palestinian land, with access restrictions to land for farming and herding; and the destruction of houses, water and livestock. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in September 2011 that there were, on average, 121 staffed checkpoints obstructing Palestinian movement in the West Bank, and an additional 489 ad hoc “flying” checkpoints obstructed movement around the West Bank each month (on average).5 In December 2011, Israel finished the construction of a new terminal at Shu’fat camp, which serves as a crossing point between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, furthering access restrictions. Thirteen Palestinians were killed and 1,643 injured in the West Bank in conflict-related incidents in the reporting period. In the same period, 12 Israeli civilians were killed and 124 injured.6

6. The economy in the West Bank grew during 2011, and GDP per capita data for the third quarter of 2011 showed an increase of 5.5 per cent compared with the same period in 2010. The unemployment rate in the West Bank for the third quarter of 2011 was 19.7 per cent, compared with 20.1 per cent during the third quarter 2010;7 however refugee unemployment and poverty remained higher. 7. Since the outbreak of protests in the Syrian Arab Republic in March 2011 and the subsequent conflict, living conditions for Palestine refugees in that country have deteriorated significantly. The devaluation of the Syrian pound has had a negative impact on their livelihoods, exacerbated by a rise in the cost of basic commodities and services and by a contraction of the wage labour market upon which a large proportion of Palestinians depend. The informal employment market has collapsed, and there are shortages of electricity, fuel and heating oil. While food remains available in most Palestinian residential areas, inflation and reduced household incomes mean food insecurity is growing. In addition, levels of conflict, violence and criminality have risen, leading to problems with access to services and high levels of stress and uncertainty among the refugee population. Owing to the conflict, UNRWA services have been temporarily interrupted, and installations were temporarily closed in Dera’a, Douma, Hama, Homs and Khan Dunoun in 2011. A military operation in Latakia camp forced the displacement of almost all of the camp-dwelling Palestine refugee population and the closure of UNRWA installations from 14 to 21 August 2011. Although the camps have not been directly affected by the conflict, refugee populations still form a particularly vulnerable group owing to their generally depressed economic status and to the proximity of so many of the refugee camps to areas of unrest and violence. The number of conflict-related Palestinian fatalities in the Syrian Arab Republic in 2011 remains unconfirmed; however, reports in the media and from other independent sources refer to a variety of figures, the highest estimate amounting to 260.

8. In Lebanon, living conditions for Palestine refugees remain abject. They suffer high unemployment and poverty rates. The camps and gatherings lack adequate basic infrastructure, including roads, electricity and water, and housing is frequently unhealthy and unsafe. In January, the unity Government of Saad Hariri in Lebanon fell, leading to five months of political uncertainty, causing delays in decisions on refugee issues, including the right of Palestine refugees to work, and adding to the challenges concerning the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp. In June, Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed a new Government, which noted its role in guaranteeing certain rights for the Palestinians and called for full funding of UNRWA operations and the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp. In May, tens of thousands of Palestinians participated in a rally at Lebanon’s southern borders. Seven Palestinians were killed and over one hundred wounded, reportedly by gunfire from Israeli forces, when the demonstrators ran towards the border fence. Similar demonstrations took place in other parts of the region on the same day with the international community calling for calm and restraint.

9. In Jordan, in 2011, there were also calls for an improved standard of living. The situation in the field remained relatively calm. Several constitutional amendments were proposed, including the creation of an independent election commission, a new political parties’ law and the establishment of a constitutional court. As in all other fields of operation, salary increases for Jordanian public sector workers placed a financial burden on UNRWA, as the Agency’s pay policy is to match host country salaries. In 2011, UNRWA matched the Government of Jordan’s increase of 20 Jordanian dinars per person per month, adding $2.7 million to wage costs in Jordan alone.

B. Operational developments

10. Across its five fields of operation, UNRWA provides a measure of protection and human development for the Palestine refugees through the provision of services in the areas of education, health, relief, social services, infrastructure and camp improvement, and microfinance. In addition, UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance to refugees affected by emergencies and to persons displaced by the 1967 and subsequent hostilities, in accordance with its mandate. Since 2000, the Agency’s large-scale emergency intervention has been in the occupied Palestinian territory, providing basic humanitarian assistance in addition to the regular programmes. During the reporting period, the Agency continued its emergency operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, under an emergency appeal for $379 million. By the end of the year, donors had funded $153.7 million, or around 40 per cent, of the appeal.

11. In the Gaza Strip in 2011, UNRWA further improved its targeting and programme responses and reduced its emergency food assistance caseload from 714,000 refugees in the first round of assistance to 690,000 in the third. UNRWA also provided school meals to approximately 213,000 children per month in the Gaza Strip.

12. In addition, UNRWA provided short-term job opportunities to a total of 31,972 unemployed refugees. This was a significant decrease compared with 2010, when UNRWA was able to provide temporary employment to 42,685 refugees, and resulted from declining contributions to the emergency appeal. The reduction in short-term jobs offered by UNRWA is cause for concern, as UNRWA has estimated that such employment amounts to 32 per cent of overall refugee employment in the Gaza Strip. Access to education, health, water and sanitation services, in which UNRWA plays a critical role, continued to be a challenge owing to the deteriorating humanitarian context. UNRWA health centres received an additional 80,000 patient visits in 2011 as compared with 2010.

13. In the West Bank during the period, the Agency provided emergency food aid to 10,070 families and assisted an estimated 27,387 refugees with temporary employment, which supported approximately 166,000 additional dependants. The Agency also implemented 19 protection projects in 14 villages in area C and the “seam zone”.8 The projects encourage viable community-based economic activity, and help the residents to earn an income and improve their standard of living in their communities. There was an increase in reports of settler violence against Palestinians in 2011, in spite of condemnations by Israeli authorities and several indictments. UNRWA recorded 586 incidents — the highest since it began recording in 2002 — compared with 483 in 2010. There was also an increase in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures in area C. In 2011, the demolition of at least 622 Palestinian structures was recorded in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (including at least 222 residential units), compared with 439 structures, (including 140 residential units) in 2010.9

14. In the Syrian Arab Republic, as a result of the increasing poverty of Palestine refugees and the overall situation, the demand for UNRWA services — in particular social safety net services of cash and food — grew exponentially. As a response to the increasing needs, UNRWA provided 3,500 households with cash assistance, including those displaced in Latakia in 2011. At the end of 2011, 17,000 households were seeking urgent cash assistance, a significant increase over the UNRWA normal social safety net programme. The Agency was working to ensure that those in need were reached quickly.

15. In Lebanon in September, UNRWA handed over 369 new shelters to refugee families in the first completed phase of the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp. The Agency also completed three new school buildings. However, funding shortfalls and a difficult operating environment continued to pose a challenge to progress with relief and reconstruction and prolonged hardships for the 27,000 refugees displaced from the camp since 2007. As at end December 2011, pledges amounting to $15.2 million had been received against an appeal for $18.5 million to meet basic needs of the displaced refugees awaiting reconstruction of the camp. The Agency’s parallel appeal to reconstruct the camp was also underfunded, with pledges amounting to $165.7 million received against the $348 million appeal as at the end of the reporting period.

16. To address the special needs of the refugees in Lebanon, on 28 September UNRWA launched its “restoring dignity” appeal, covering a five-year period. The appeal requested $147 million over and above the Agency’s programme budget, which would continue to support UNRWA core activities. Drawing from the 2010 American University of Beirut socioeconomic survey of Palestine refugees, the restoring dignity appeal provides for additional interventions for shelter and infrastructure, health, education, relief, vocational training and employment services.

17. The security of UNRWA staff remained of serious concern, in particular threats to and attacks on locally recruited staff while delivering services. The Agency is exploring ways to prevent and respond to attacks in cooperation with host authorities, consistent with United Nations privileges and immunities. UNRWA is indebted to its staff and acknowledges their dedication and loyalty and the need to take further steps to address their security. Those working in areas of conflict are particularly commended. The Agency notes with regret that the local employees of UNRWA are the only United Nations staff members in the area who do not receive hazard pay and reiterates its calls for that issue to be addressed.

C. Organizational developments

18. Further progress was made in 2011 in advancing the Agency’s comprehensive programme reforms, under the sustaining change plan. Building on the organizational development process initiated in 2006, the reforms aim to complete the Agency’s institutional transformation by strengthening its management systems and the effectiveness of its human development and anti-poverty interventions over the next two bienniums (2012-2015). The Agency presented a package of proposed reforms of its health and education programmes to the UNRWA Advisory Commission in June. The reform plan for the Agency’s relief and social services programme was presented to the Advisory Commission in November. Further details of the plans are set out in the programme framework in chapter III of the present report. In conjunction with the sustaining change plan, UNRWA also presented a detailed resource mobilization strategy to the Advisory Commission in November, and moved forward with implementation during the reporting period. Details of the plan can be found in paragraph 22. Adding to the momentum of reform, in February 2011, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 64/89, the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the management capacity of UNRWA (A/65/705) was presented to the General Assembly. In the report, the Secretary-General stated that it was essential that the far-reaching management reform process begun in 2005 be maintained and deepened and that extrabudgetary contributions from traditional and non-traditional donors must rise significantly over the coming five years, to enable the Commissioner-General to implement the Agency’s medium-term strategy over the period 2010-2015, thus providing refugees with improved basic services. He also indicated his support for a proposal for Member States to commit to an increased level of funding from the United Nations regular budget to help secure the Agency’s management capacity. In its resolution 65/272 the General Assembly took note with appreciation of the report, and requested the Secretary-General to continue to support the institutional strengthening of the Agency through the provision of financial resources from the regular budget of the United Nations.

19. In 2011, the Agency also received the findings of an independent external evaluation of its organization development reforms. The assessment found that organizational development did strengthen the capacity of UNRWA to serve Palestine refugees, noting that a majority of the initiatives had been implemented and that the reform’s prevalent communicative, participatory and empowering management approach enabled managers to improve the effectiveness of the Agency’s work. The report also identified areas for improvement, among them internal communication and the roll-out of human resources reforms related to classification and compensation. The evaluation’s lead author presented the report and a summary of its findings to the UNRWA Advisory Commission in November 2011. The Agency’s senior management has responded to the evaluation and informed the Advisory Commission of its continuing change management process with relevant recommendations from the evaluation.

20. During the reporting period, UNRWA made strides in the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system. The system will allow the Agency to integrate disparate management information tools in the areas of procurement, finance and human resources. Additionally, it will provide senior management with real-time data on the allocation of budgeted resources and actual programme expenditure. The continuing absence of such a system poses a risk to the Agency’s operability, as vendor support for the existing systems will end in 2014. Following extensive assessments of options for enterprise resource planning systems, the Agency identified a partnership with another United Nations agency as providing the greatest cost efficiencies. To that end, the Agency signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Food Programme in late 2011. The estimated cost of the system is approximately $32 million over three years. Once implemented, the new system will help optimize human resources management and the Agency’s large-scale procurement and logistics functions. Programmes will also benefit from more comprehensive data that will facilitate better planning and prioritization of funds allocation. Management of funds will be strengthened from the point of contributions received to the final financial report. Operational processes will be streamlined, promoting efficiency and effectiveness. Enhanced monitoring and oversight will enable programmes to adjust initiatives to strengthen service delivery.

21. The Agency continued its introduction of more transparent and detailed monthly financial reporting, and throughout 2011 prepared for the adoption of the new accounting system, which is compliant with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, on 1 January 2012. The Agency sought to improve its programme budget preparation for the biennium 2012-2013 through the introduction of Agency-wide budget hearings involving close consultations between headquarters and the fields of operation, and an annual results review.

22. During the period, the External Relations Department and the Public Information Office were combined to form the External Relations and Communications Department. In June, the integrated Department finalized a new resource mobilization strategy for UNRWA, which was endorsed by the UNRWA Advisory Commission in November. The strategy identified three areas of focus for the Agency: deepening the relationship with core donors; diversifying the donor base (including through increased funding from Arab donors); and developing the Agency’s capacity to enhance donor relations. As part of the new integrated Department, the Communications Division created and distributed a broad range of media products in support of the resource mobilization strategy. Key to the strategy are efforts to build on resource mobilization achievements and further diversify the donor base; by 2011, the structure of contributions from the major government donors to UNRWA was as diverse as that of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which rank among the most effective mobilizers of voluntary resources among the specialized agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system. The work of the Arab Partners Unit of the External Relations and Communications Department contributed to the results in 2011, when Saudi Arabia became the third largest overall donor to UNRWA. Efforts of the Donor Relations Unit to reach out to emerging markets led in 2011 to announcements of significant new contributions from countries with emerging economies, such as Brazil. Those efforts were further enhanced with the establishment of the Partnerships Division in 2011, which began the process of expanding the Agency’s outreach to private partners, private individuals (including high net worth individuals) and foundations.

23. In addition to supporting the resource mobilization strategy, the Agency’s newly configured Communications Division supported high levels of visibility for the UNRWA brand using an innovative, cost-effective mix of new media, old media and traditional communications tools. Major UNRWA stories featured in local, regional and global media in 2011, including UNRWA initiatives in the Gaza Strip — a green school, the summer games and the UNRWA marathon — and the promotion of the “dignity for all” appeal in Lebanon. The UNRWA website secured an average of 56,000 visitors per month, with 2,868,039 page views during 2011. The Agency also increased the number of its Facebook supporters to almost 20,000. Other key activities were undertaken in 2011 in line with the Agency’s protection mandate, including the ongoing web-based campaign drawing attention to demolitions in the West Bank and their impact on Palestinians.

24. In July 2011, the UNRWA human resources department issued a new staffing framework, which included new policies for the selection and management of all categories of staff and complementary personnel. In accordance with the decentralization of selection decisions, UNRWA field offices now have the authority to decide on the optimal use of different contractual modalities. Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/253 on the administration of justice at the United Nations, the Agency implemented a new mediation system in May 2011, providing staff with an informal dispute resolution opportunity in combination with, or as an alternative to, formal dispute resolution.

D. Legal matters

Agency staff

25. Israeli authorities, raising security concerns, continued to restrict the freedom of movement of UNRWA personnel in the occupied Palestinian territory. The restrictions included closures of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; prohibition of local staff from travelling in United Nations vehicles across the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, or across the Allenby Bridge, or from driving in Israel and East Jerusalem; and cumbersome procedures for obtaining permits for local staff to enter Israel and East Jerusalem. On many occasions, permits were not granted even though the procedures were followed. On average, permits to enter East Jerusalem were not issued to 15 per cent (75 individuals) of the Agency’s personnel, who needed them, and in many cases no reasons were given for the denials.

26. At the Allenby Bridge, Israeli procedures continued to request searches of United Nations vehicles that would violate the immunity of the United Nations, unless an occupant held an identification card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel. The procedures restricted in particular the movement of international staff based at UNRWA headquarters in Amman, to whom the Ministry does not issue such cards.

27. The Erez crossing procedures often remained time-consuming, with average wait times of about 30 minutes on the Gaza Strip side of the crossing, endangering international staff members’ safety. Israeli procedures continued to request that United Nations vehicles be submitted to a search that would violate the immunity of the United Nations, unless the vehicle included a United Nations staff member holding a diplomatic visa or was driven by an international staff member on a limited list approved by the Israeli authorities. On many occasions at checkpoints entering East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities refused to permit UNRWA staff members in United Nations vehicles to cross without a vehicle search that would violate the immunity of the United Nations. On three occasions the Israeli authorities conducted searches, which the Agency protested.

28. The above-mentioned restrictions are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, relevant United Nations resolutions and the 1967 Comay-Michelmore agreement, by which the Government of Israel is obligated to facilitate the task of UNRWA to the best of its ability, subject only to regulations or arrangements which may be necessitated by considerations of military security.

29. UNRWA applied for permits for local staff to enter East Jerusalem for operational and humanitarian reasons only and without prejudice to relevant United Nations resolutions, including resolutions relating to the status of Jerusalem.

30. The Israeli authorities maintained that the restrictions were necessary to protect Israel against terrorist threats. Evidence was not available to the Agency, however, to indicate that measures concerning Agency staff and movement were anything other than matters of police or administrative convenience.

31. In the West Bank, coordination with Israeli military liaison officers continued, including 70 meetings. However, the officers had limited or no influence over Israeli checkpoints staffed by private contractors, and staff movement continued to be restricted and unpredictable at several checkpoints, notably those controlling access to East Jerusalem or through the West Bank barrier. In 2011, movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the West Bank resulted in the loss of 163 staff days. Additional Agency time and resources were expended to adapt to the restrictions. It remained difficult to deliver Agency services in the area between the West Bank barrier and the 1949 armistice line, in particular in the Barta’a area and, from September 2011, in two communities south of Qalqilya.

32. Local staff required permits from the Israeli authorities to transit the Erez crossing. Of a total of 157 applications, 118 permits (76 per cent) were granted, compared to 58 per cent in 2010.

33. In 2011, the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was open for public use for a total of 267 of 363 scheduled days (73 per cent). With the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities, UNRWA staff members have been allowed to cross two days a week, after obtaining the necessary coordination. A total of 569 UNRWA staff were allowed to cross on duty travel outside the occupied Palestinian territory, while 4 staff initially denied permission were granted permission after numerous requests.

34. During the reporting period, no significant movement restrictions were imposed on UNRWA staff by the Governments of Jordan or Lebanon, or by the Palestinian Authority.

35. In the Syrian Arab Republic, from March 2011, a substantial number of checkpoints were erected, but they had no substantial impact on the movement of staff. From March 2011, the Syrian authorities refused to either issue or renew visas of many UNRWA staff. During the reporting period, there were 180 applications for visas for staff members outside the Syrian Arab Republic to visit that country on mission, of which 159 were granted (88 per cent). The Syrian authorities did not issue visas for two international staff members of the field office in the Syrian Arab Republic. The visa and residency status of an international seconded staff member was revoked during the reporting period.

36. At the end of 2011, seven staff members were in detention, four of whom were held by the Israeli authorities, two by the Jordanian and one by the Lebanese authorities. Despite repeated requests made by the Agency, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 36/232, the Israeli authorities did not provide the Agency with access to its detained staff but provided some information on the reasons for detention of three of the four staff members. The Lebanese authorities provided some information and access to detained staff. As at the end of the reporting period, the Jordanian authorities provided some information about one detained staff member.

Agency services and premises

37. The Israeli authorities continued to impose transit charges on shipments entering the Gaza Strip, forcing UNRWA to pay $344,744 in 2011. In the Agency’s view, the charge is a direct tax, from which it ought to be exempt under the 1946 Convention. In Israel’s view, the charges were a fee for services and therefore there was no exemption. The normal route for the Agency’s humanitarian shipments into the Gaza Strip would be through the Karni crossing, except for construction materials, which would enter through the Sofa crossing. Throughout 2011, however, the Israeli authorities continued the closure of the Karni crossing for all containers and of the Sofa crossing, and all UNRWA container shipments were required to enter through one secondary crossing, Kerem Shalom. As that crossing was not capable of receiving containers, all container shipments had to be palletized at port prior to transport to the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the Kerem Shalom crossing was closed for imports for 38 full days and 2 half days out of 261 scheduled operating days. The closures of the Karni crossing and the requirement to palletize all container shipments contributed to increased expenditure in the form of charges for storage, demurrage, transportation and palletization of some $3.59 million, including $1.26 million for palletization costs. On 1 March 2011 the Israeli authorities closed the remaining conveyor belt at Karni crossing, which had been used for bulk wheat and animal feed, and, from May 2010, for bulk aggregate for construction projects approved by Israeli authorities.

38. The Israeli authorities announced in June 2010 that they would liberalize the system by which civilian goods entered Gaza and expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that were under international supervision. Since then, UNRWA has been able to complete 20 construction projects, and start or restart 26 projects in 2011, importing 7,571 truckloads of construction materials for projects approved by Israeli authorities. However, the procedures required to import the necessary construction materials were cumbersome and expensive, obliging UNRWA to employ, during the period, one additional international staff member and seven additional local staff to address the additional bureaucratic burden. In addition, 1,204 guards were employed to ensure the security of imported materials. At the end of 2011, 73 construction projects had been approved, while 38 construction projects submitted to the Israeli authorities remained on hold, awaiting approval, including three fully funded housing projects submitted for approval in September 2010 and March 2011 for the construction of 1,641 housing units in the Gaza Strip.

39. During the reporting period, Israeli authorities continued to require standards testing for electronic, medical and other items for official use. UNRWA imports goods for its official use that conform to international standards, and it considers that the current Israeli requirements are contrary to the exemption under the 1946 Convention from prohibitions and restrictions on imports in respect of articles imported by the United Nations for its official use. As at the end of the reporting period, consignments destined for the West Bank were held up for up to 364 days resulting in storage costs of some $44,000. Despite discussions with relevant Israeli authorities, the issue remained unresolved at the end of the reporting period.

40. In the Syrian Arab Republic, requests to the Syrian authorities to import buses purchased by UNRWA for official use had not been granted as at the end of the reporting period.

41. The Operations Support Officer programme continued in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon. The programme played an invaluable role in upholding United Nations neutrality; in facilitating access of UNRWA staff members, vehicles and goods through checkpoints and, in the occupied Palestinian territory, to areas affected by Israeli military operations; in supporting the Agency’s programmes and initiatives; in monitoring the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian population; in the inspection of UNRWA installations; and in providing a measure of protection to refugees, including the displaced.

42. The 1946 Convention provides that the premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. Contrary to that legal obligation, the Israeli military and security forces entered UNRWA premises in the West Bank on two occasions. On another occasion Israeli forces threw a percussion grenade inside the yard of the UNRWA Hebron boys’ school, while class was in session. There were five other incidents in the West Bank in which spent Israeli ordnance, including tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets, were found on UNRWA premises. The Agency protested these incidents. In the Gaza Strip, on one occasion, an UNRWA school was damaged as a result of an Israeli airstrike on a nearby location. On another occasion, an UNRWA guard, who was guarding cement imported to the Gaza Strip from Israel at a local concrete factory, sustained injuries following an Israeli missile strike on an adjacent area.

43. Following approval by the Israeli authorities on 15 November 2010, on 18 September 2011 the Agency commenced reconstruction of the Gaza field office warehouse destroyed on 15 January 2009.

44. In the West Bank, on three occasions unauthorized community events were held on UNRWA premises, including one incident on 15 May 2011 that involved high-level Palestinian Authority officials. The Agency protested the incident. There were six incidents involving threats or attacks against staff by Palestinians, including one in which staff members were held at gunpoint, and 12 incidents of unauthorized entry or break-in into UNRWA installations, which in two cases involved armed individuals and live fire. In the Gaza Strip, on 14 December 2011, the anniversary of the creation of the Hamas party, unknown masked men entered three schools, threatening staff and forcing the students to leave school in two instances. In three instances, students at or adjacent to UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip sustained gunshot wounds from unknown sources. On two occasions, UNRWA installations in the Gaza Strip were struck by missiles or hand grenades fired by unknown Palestinian sources.

45. In the Syrian Arab Republic, several incidents occurred in connection with the general situation of unrest. UNRWA installations in Latakia and Homs sustained minor damage to their exterior during military operations in August 2011. On one occasion, an unidentified gunman entered an UNRWA school in Homs and fired shots, reportedly into the air, before fleeing. In another instance, a ramp placed between a security installation and the roof of an UNRWA school in Dera’a was removed following the Agency’s protest. There were no violations of UNRWA premises in Jordan. In Lebanon, on one occasion, two unknown individuals broke into an UNRWA school in Tripoli, North Lebanon, and threatened UNRWA staff.

46. Bearing in mind the Agency’s duty to ensure the safety and security of its staff members, the Agency is concerned about the level of threats and attacks against its personnel in all five fields of operation and is exploring ways to prevent and respond to attacks, in cooperation with national authorities and consistent with United Nations privileges and immunities.

Other matters

47. In 2011, UNRWA did not receive any reimbursement for value-added tax from the Palestinian Authority. As at 31 December 2011, the total amount of value-added tax still due to the Agency for services and goods procured for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was approximately $54.1 million.

48. On 15 August 2011, the Commissioner-General and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority signed an explanatory note regarding understanding and implementation of privileges and immunities and related responsibilities. The explanatory note, which is the result of discussions with the Palestinian Authority that commenced in 2010, confirms the mutual understanding of privileges and immunities and related responsibilities on the basis of international law and sets out standard operating procedures for their strengthened implementation. The explanatory note does not modify the agreement dated 5 July 1996 between the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA or other applicable international law.

49. During the reporting period, the Agency was required, as in the past, to pay port fees and other charges to the Syrian authorities, contrary to the 1948 Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. In 2011, fees and charges totalling $25,547 were paid.

Legal status of Palestine refugees in the Agency’s areas of operation

50. The legal status of Palestine refugees in Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remained substantially the same as that described in the report of the Commissioner-General for 2008.10

51. Further to the matter described in the report of the Commissioner-General for 2010,11 implementation procedures for the amendments to the labour and social security laws enacted by the Parliament of Lebanon on 17 August 2010 had not yet been adopted as at the end of the reporting period. A 1957 decree still in force governs the movement of Palestine refugees, who in practice may freely change their residence in the country. Palestine refugees have limited access to government services and have to depend almost entirely on UNRWA for basic services. Legislation preventing Palestine refugees from buying immovable property remained in force.

E. Financial overview

Sources of funding

52. With the exception of 133 international staff posts funded by the General Assembly through the United Nations regular budget as of the biennium 2012-2013, UNRWA operations, projects and emergency appeals are funded by the voluntary contributions of donors (see figure I). Projects are earmarked contributions for specific activities that complement the Agency’s regular programmes.

Figure I

Distribution of sources of funding by donor category and funding channel
By donor category


53. In 2011, the Agency expended $989.8 million. The largest type of expenditure was $572 million under the unrestricted regular budget, accounting for 57.9 per cent of total expenditure. Restricted fund activities, emergency activities and projects accounted for 3.9 per cent, 22.4 per cent and 14.9 per cent, respectively. Inadequate funding forced the Agency to implement a range of stringent measures, including reductions in travel for training purposes.

54. In 2011, education remained the largest programme, with an expenditure of $333.8 million accounting for 58 per cent of the total unrestricted regular budget expenditure of $572 million (see tables 1 and 2, and figures II and III).

Table 2
General Fund actual expenditure by field of operation, by human development goal, 2011
(In thousands of United States dollars)

Figure III

Expenditure by human development goal

Chapter II
Field priorities

A. Jordan

55. Jordan hosts the largest population of Palestine refugees, numbering 1,979,580 as at 31 December 2011. During the reporting period, the Agency’s field management continued to identify efficiencies and savings to address funding shortfalls, while working to implement health and education reform strategies in line with Agency-wide processes. As part of the family health team reform of the health programme, the e-health system, which aims to digitize the health records of patients at UNRWA clinics, and the new appointment system, which helps to reduce clinic overcrowding and delays at peak times, were successfully rolled out at five health centres. The reforms directly benefited over 250,000 patients per year and resulted in more efficient service, shorter waiting times for patients and more precise monitoring of staff time, medical supply use and expenditures. In the relief and social services programme, the shift from the status-based special hardship case programme to the needs-based social safety net programme was accelerated in 2011, and all families benefiting from the social hardship case programme were reassessed using a proxy means test formula to determine their level of poverty. For social safety net beneficiaries, a new method of cash distribution through post offices was also successfully piloted. Evidence suggests cash transfers are a better method of assisting people out of poverty on a more sustainable basis than food assistance.

B. Lebanon

56. As at 31 December 2011, the registered Palestine refugee population in Lebanon stood at 436,154. During the reporting period, the Agency’s Lebanon field office continued to implement reforms designed to improve the quality of services delivered to refugees. It initiated a pilot project at the Beirut Polyclinic Center based on the family health team approach. A better monitoring and evaluation mechanism has been established for hospitalization services and, through contracts with 35 hospitals, accessibility to hospital care has been increased for the refugees. A catastrophic ailment relief programme was launched in April in an attempt to respond to limited tertiary care coverage. In the education programme, several initiatives were undertaken to improve academic achievement. They included teacher training, summer learning support and the provision of recreational activities throughout the year. Further improvements in the pass rates were observed for the two national exams. Four new schools were built, and double shifts were almost eliminated; 65 out of 67 UNRWA schools in Lebanon operated on a single-shift basis as at 31 December 2011. To improve camp conditions, infrastructure rehabilitation was undertaken in Burj Barajneh camp and shelter rehabilitation in Burj el-Shemali camp. A self-help approach to shelter rehabilitation was piloted in Ein El-Hilweh camp and proved successful, given the relatively free availability of building materials in Lebanon and the latitude accorded to self-help beneficiaries in sourcing their purchases of materials. The pilot led to a 50 per cent decrease in rehabilitation costs per shelter.

C. Syrian Arab Republic

56. As at 31 December 2011, the registered Palestine refugee population in the Syrian Arab Republic stood at 486,946. Under the conditions of conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic in 2011, with related severe economic repercussions, the Agency’s field management expanded its humanitarian assistance using project funding, prioritizing livelihood support to the elderly, female-headed households and families with special needs. Recurring violence affected UNRWA services in and around a number of refugee camps, where school enrolment, assistance to the most vulnerable and microfinance lending were curtailed. However, the Agency was able to maintain operations in most areas. During the year, it prepared the health programme for the rollout of an online e-health management system and focused reforms in the education programme on delivering inclusive education for students with special needs. Construction was completed on a complex to house the “engaging youth” project, the UNRWA vocational training and employability programme designed to address high youth unemployment among Palestine refugees.

The Agency also continued its Ramadan camp initiative, a programme of camp and shelter repairs and improvements operated in partnership with UNICEF and the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

D. West Bank

58. As at 31 December 2011, the registered Palestine refugee population of the West Bank was 727,471. During the reporting period, in addition to implementing programme reforms under the Agency-wide sustaining change process, UNRWA field management undertook a new community engagement programme with the purpose of enhancing service delivery and improving refugee self-reliance. One element of the strategy was to empower UNRWA camp services officers and area officers to make programming decisions, as their proximity to beneficiaries improves the capacity to assess and respond more effectively to the needs of refugee communities. The Agency also increased the frequency of engagement between senior staff, camp committees and other stakeholders to discuss key issues. UNRWA also joined a partnership with the United Nations country team and the Palestinian Authority’s national strategy for youth to focus on new approaches to enhancing youth employment opportunities. The Agency undertook a year-long process of evaluating and improving the database that it uses to target poverty by identifying food-insecure and vulnerable refugees. During the reporting period, UNRWA also began to transfer programmes out of its emergency funding process, with community mental health in schools and health clinics transferred into the framework of its core activities, and with shelter rehabilitation transferred into project funding.

E. Gaza Strip

59. As at 31 December 2011, the registered Palestine refugee population in the Gaza Strip stood at 1,167,572. During the reporting period, UNRWA strengthened its efforts to better target assistance to those most in need through wider application of a poverty survey, on the basis of a proxy means test formula; over 150,000 families were surveyed in 2011. As of the end of 2011, 780,000 refugees in abject or absolute poverty had received food assistance from UNRWA, 680,000 under the emergency programme and 100,000 from the social safety net funded by the regular budget. Those figures were a slight increase over previous years, indicating the lack of substantial improvement in the humanitarian situation. UNRWA also used the results of the poverty survey to better target assistance through its cash-for-work scheme, known as the “job creation programme”. Over the year, the equivalent of nearly 8,000 jobs were created on a short-term basis, an estimated $28 million was injected into the local economy and approximately 32,000 refugees benefited directly. The number of contracts awarded under the programme was slashed in the third quarter of 2011 owing to the sharp drop in funding for the Agency’s emergency appeal. By the end of 2011, only 29 per cent (3,152) of the contracts remained active as compared with over 10,000 in late 2010.

60. Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip remained a key priority for UNRWA in 2011, and continuing efforts were made to accelerate implementation of the Agency’s $667 million reconstruction plan. Under that plan, by the end of 2011, UNRWA had completed 20 projects worth some $19 million, and had initiated 31 new projects valued at $130 million. In addition, from January to June 2011, approvals to begin 46 other projects were received from the Government of Israel. In the second half of the year, no project was approved. During the year, UNRWA completed construction of three health centres, six schools and 33 housing units. Overall, ongoing projects in 2011 injected $54 million into the economy of the Gaza Strip and created the equivalent of 5,200 jobs. However, as at the end of 2011, 38 projects awaited Israeli approval, including four fully funded housing projects and 32 schools, of which 19 are fully funded.

61. Students needing additional support benefited from the launch of an interactive learning website for grades 1-3 and a summer learning programme for over 40,000 students, 87.7 per cent of whom passed the exams following the summer lessons. For the fifth year in a row, UNRWA provided an important human development opportunity for over 200,000 children in the Gaza Strip for six weeks in the summer. The UNRWA summer games form an essential component of the Agency’s “schools of excellence” initiative. They are also a unique recreational experience for children in the Gaza Strip suffering from the effects of chronic conflict and endemic poverty exacerbated by the blockade.

Chapter III
Subprogramme review presented within the framework of the UNRWA human development goals

62. Since 2010 UNRWA has followed the framework set out in its medium-term strategy 2010-2015. The strategy provides direction for the Agency on the basis of 15 strategic objectives, each of which contributes to one or more of four human development goals: a long and healthy life; acquired knowledge and skills; a decent standard of living; and human rights enjoyed to the fullest.

63. In 2011, the Agency’s field offices and headquarters departments worked towards biennium targets set out in field and headquarters implementation plans that are based on the Agency’s five-year strategic vision and refugee needs assessments conducted by each field office. Sections A through D indicate progress made towards meeting the UNRWA targets.

A. Goal 1

A long and healthy life

64. The Agency delivers basic health services to refugees and provides safe water and sanitation to Palestine refugees living in camps and some gatherings. Despite the difficult conditions prevailing in camp communities, communicable diseases are under control, and infant, child mortality and maternal rates have declined substantially over the past two decades.

65. The human development goal of a long and healthy life is achieved through the UNRWA health programme and interventions by the camp improvement and infrastructure programme, in collaboration with host countries and national and international partners where applicable. Non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are now the leading health challenges among Palestine refugees. Increasing numbers of patients need lifelong care for these chronic diseases; demand for health care is escalating. Such needs, accompanied by rising health-care costs and stagnating resources, have made it necessary for UNRWA to seek new ways of delivering health care.

66. In 2011, UNRWA embarked on a health reform process, focusing on the introduction of a family health team approach. A family health team consists of a multidisciplinary group of health professionals working together to serve the comprehensive health-care needs of the individual and the family. Continuity of care is ensured, and there is a strong focus on building relationships among health-care providers, patients, families and communities. The family health team approach was piloted in two clinics late in 2011. The pilots achieved improvements in workload distribution and increased efficiency in the use of staff time and skills. The experience gained through the pilots enabled UNRWA to develop a standardized family health team introduction package to guide staff in preparing for and implementing the approach.

67. UNRWA also developed an electronic patient record system, e-health, to replace the existing system of hard copy records. During the period, pilot facilities were equipped with computer infrastructure; staff were trained to use e-health; and implementation commenced. The system has significantly streamlined the management of individual patient information, particularly for long-term patients with non-communicable diseases. At the same time, e-health reduced the recording and reporting burden for staff. The family health team approach and e-health, however, require substantial investment in systems development and staff capacity. They also substantially improve the care of non-communicable diseases. However, resource constraints prevented UNRWA from including cholesterol-lowering medicines in its list of essential drugs, even though they are critical to the management of a high proportion of these patients. The complications of such diseases may be severe, requiring hospitalization, and may result in disability. Management of the increasing burden of chronic diseases, therefore, has substantial resource implications for staffing, medicines and hospital care.

68. During the reporting period, under its infrastructure and camp improvement programme, UNRWA constructed or rehabilitated the shelters for the families living in structurally unsound, unsafe and unhygienic conditions, enabling the rehabilitation of 635 shelters. However, the shortage of funding meant that the total remained a small proportion of the 10,000 shelters estimated to be in need of rehabilitation across all five fields of operation. The programme also included continuing efforts to improve facilities for refugees, and during the reporting period UNRWA constructed, rehabilitated or extended 33 schools, eight health centres and eight community development centres across the fields of operation. Nearly 99 per cent of camp shelters are connected to a water network, and almost 94 per cent of refugee shelters are now connected to a public sewerage network. In 2011, through the programme, UNRWA undertook infrastructure projects in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip that included the construction of 12 kilometres of main sewage lines, 19 kilometres of water supply lines and 100,000 square metres of pathways.

Strategic objective 1
To ensure universal access to quality, comprehensive primary health care


• Average patient/client contact time with doctors was still brief at three minutes on average12
• 80 per cent of health clinic staff had passed a competency assessment test
• Average daily consultations per doctor were still high at 106
• The rate of late complications among non-communicable disease patients was 12.1 per cent
• In all, 88,527 patients were subsidized for hospitalization for secondary or tertiary health care
• Four operational research studies were conducted in quality management
• All medicines on the UNRWA essential drug list were made available; drug shortages affected only a few medicines for a very limited duration
• Eight health centres (four in Gaza, three in Jordan and one in the West Bank) were built, reconstructed or extended, and another two health centres are under construction across the fields of operation

Strategic objective 2
To protect and promote family health


• 77.8 per cent of women registered for antenatal care during their first trimester
• The recovery rate of children with growth retardation was 22 per cent

Strategic objective 3
To prevent and control diseases


• 99.6 per cent of 18-month-old children were vaccinated
• Almost all shelters in camps have been connected to the UNRWA/municipal water network
• 93.6 per cent of shelters in camps are connected to a public sewerage network
• Infrastructure projects for Burj Barajneh and Mar Elias camps in Lebanon were completed, with the construction of 11 kilometres of sewage lines, 18 kilometres of water supply lines, two reservoirs and 56,0000 square metres of pathways. The design of a sewerage and drainage system was completed for Nahr el-Bared camp
• The design of a sewerage and drainage system was completed for Dera’a camp in the Syrian Arab Republic
• In Deir-el-Balah and Khan Younis camps in the Gaza Strip, 45,000 square metres of pavement, 0.9 kilometres of sewage pipes, 0.9 kilometres of water pipes and other infrastructure works were constructed

B. Goal 2
Acquired knowledge and skills

69. UNRWA operates 691 elementary and preparatory schools in all its areas of operation, as well as eight secondary schools in Lebanon, providing free basic education for around half a million Palestine refugee children. Literacy rates among Palestine refugees compare well with regional and global levels, and there has been gender equity in enrolment since the 1960s. Through its education system, UNRWA has the greatest potential to help Palestine refugee children to thrive, achieve their potential and grow up understanding their rights and respecting the rights of others. The UNRWA education programme also contributes to UNRWA human development goal 3 (a decent standard of living) by increasing employability through its technical and vocational training programme.

70. On 5 October 2011, UNRWA launched its education reform strategy. The reform aims to improve the effectiveness, relevance and efficiency of the Agency’s education programme in the UNRWA schools. The strategy seeks to bring about transformational change through an integrated approach encompassing eight key areas: teacher development and school empowerment; curriculum and student assessment; inclusive education; technical and vocational education and training; governance; strategic planning, management and projects; research, development and the educational management information system; and partnerships, communication, and information and communications technology.

71. Key policies and strategies under development during the reporting period included the following: (a) the teacher policy, which seeks to professionalize and motivate the teaching staff; (b) the human rights education policy, which outlines the core principles and values of human rights education and its integration into teaching practice; (c) the inclusive education policy, which works to determine how best the needs of all students can be realized within the classroom; and (d) the education research strategy, which reflects the importance of evidence-based policy and decision-making. Substantive work was undertaken in developing a curriculum framework to support evaluation and enrichment of the curriculum and ensure adherence to the principles and values of the United Nations. Specifications for an Agency-wide education management information system were also developed.

Strategic objective 4
To ensure universal access to and coverage of basic education


• Maintenance was carried out in a majority of schools
• A total of 33 schools (13 in the Gaza Strip; 12 in Jordan; 5 in Lebanon; 2 in the Syrian Arab Republic; and 1 in the West Bank) were built, reconstructed or extended, and another 17 schools (13 in the Gaza Strip; 3 in the West Bank and 1 in the Syrian Arab Republic) were under construction across the fields of operation

Strategic objective 5
To enhance educational quality and outcomes against set standards


• All schools produced school development plans
• All schools developed curriculums for educational initiatives

Strategic objective 6
To improve access to educational opportunities for learners with special educational needs

C. Goal 3

A decent standard of living

72. The Agency continued to deliver a social safety net comprised of food, cash and specialized services to almost 300,000 of the very poorest refugees in 2011. The Agency’s activities in support of a decent standard of living require integrated interventions from the relief and social services, microfinance, education and camp improvement and infrastructure programmes.

73. The Agency’s growing ability to assess poverty at the household level and target the most vulnerable ensured that resources went to those most in need. Rigorous assessment of the Agency’s work to bridge poverty gaps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has demonstrated that resources positively affect abject poverty levels.

74. During the reporting period the UNRWA relief and social services programme formulated a reform strategy which focuses on a gradual evolution away from food to cash as the dominant form of social transfer, and which proposes a more robust and effective attack on poverty through development programming. Through the proposed reform, the Agency seeks to maintain a sustainable safety net to Palestine refugees who need it, empower people to climb out of poverty and leverage the strengths inherent in refugee communities. In particular, the reform process recognizes the importance of youth, both in terms of what young people have to offer and the problems their unanswered needs can pose. Consequently, the reform strategy focuses considerable attention on employment, integration and social skills for youth.

Strategic objective 7
To reduce abject poverty


• An average of 288,405 individuals received quarterly food aid and/or a cash subsidy
• 80 per cent of registered pregnant and nursing women received entitlements
• A total of 6,771 persons with disabilities were assisted
• Social workers’ caseloads were to have been reduced to 200, but as result of funding constraints, they rose to 273

Strategic objective 8
To mitigate the immediate effects of emergencies on individuals

Strategic objective 9
To provide inclusive financial services and increased access to credit


• A new microfinance branch office was opened in Irbid, Jordan, during the period, expanding the operating network to 21 branch offices
• The microfinance programme financed 39,998 loans valued at $44.38 million, with 14,627 loans valued at $22.97 million financed in the occupied Palestinian territory, 17,718 loans worth $12.36 million financed in the Syrian Arab Republic and 7,654 loans worth $9.05 million in Jordan
• The overall annual outreach to clients grew by 19 per cent, while the value of the portfolio increased by 10 per cent. Growth was the highest in the Syrian Arab Republic, where the annual outreach advanced by 23 per cent, while outreach in Jordan increased by 18 per cent and grew by 15 per cent in the occupied Palestinian territory
• A total of 29,616 loans, valued at $32.03 million, were provided to enterprises, through the programme’s microenterprise credit, microenterprise credit plus, small-scale enterprise, solidarity group lending and women’s household credit products
• A total of 10,386 consumer and housing loans valued at $12.35 million were provided to support education and health, to build household assets and to enable families to improve their housing through loans for repair, maintenance and construction
• Palestine refugees accounted for 34 per cent of all clients, while informal enterprises accounted for 85 per cent of all enterprises financed
• Loans to women represented 37 per cent of portfolio outreach and young clients between 18 and 30 years of age accounted for 30 per cent of all borrowers
• The programme remained completely self-reliant, with an operational self-sufficiency rate of 110 per cent, which produced a net income of $866,647 on total operating revenues of $9.39 million

Strategic objective 10
To improve employability


• 27.8 per cent of students found a job in their field of study within one year after graduating from a vocational training centre13
• 100 per cent of students will have received career guidance in grades 9 and 10
• A total of 346 scholarships for higher education were provided

Strategic objective 11
To improve the urban environment through sustainable camp development and upgrading of substandard infrastructure and accommodations


• In all, 601 shelters were rehabilitated, extended or reconstructed in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including 484 families who were social safety net beneficiaries
• As part of a large project in Neirab camp in the Syrian Arab Republic, the rehabilitation of 34 housing units was completed, of which 12 families were social safety net cases
• In the Gaza Strip, under emergency interventions, 2,468 shelters were repaired and/or reconstructed after destruction, including 264 families who are social safety net beneficiaries
• In Jordan, no interventions were carried out owing to lack of funding
• A total of 950 families were accommodated in emergency shelters and collective centres around Nahr el-Bared camp
• Forty-nine UNRWA facilities were built, reconstructed or extended
• A camp improvement plan was under preparation for Rashidieh camp, Lebanon; Huson camp, Jordan; and Arroub camp, West Bank

D. Goal 4

Human rights enjoyed to the fullest

75. Just and equitable human development and effective humanitarian action require respect for human rights. The achievement of the Agency’s first three human development goals, therefore, relies on the fourth: ensuring that human rights are enjoyed to the fullest. The Agency’s role in protection is an integral part of its mandate to meet refugee needs in education, health, relief and social services, microfinance and adequate living conditions, including shelter, as well as the rights set down in international legal instruments. Its work in this regard is pursued in cooperation with national authorities, other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.

76. UNRWA protection work has internal and external dimensions. Internally, UNRWA promotes protection through programming and service delivery. Externally, it engages in the monitoring and reporting of refugee conditions and undertakes appropriate interventions, and the Commissioner-General highlights the need for a just and durable solution to the conflict, one that respects the right of the refugees.

77. The provision of essential services by UNRWA, and ensuring access to them under different circumstances, including conflict, is integral to the enjoyment of rights of the refugees. Direct and indirect engagement with other actors helps to create and consolidate an environment and practices in which rights are respected. Those rights include economic and social rights associated with the UNRWA core areas of service delivery, such as education, as well as civil and political rights, such as the right to life. In addition, as a major provider of public services, UNRWA seeks to ensure that the manner in which it provides them ensures respect for the rights, dignity and safety of its beneficiaries. It does this by, for example, mainstreaming minimum protection standards in all programmes across all fields of operation, acting to eliminate violence in schools, taking steps to prevent gender-based violence and abuse of children and promoting knowledge of individual rights through long-term human rights and tolerance programming in its schools. Monitoring and reporting mechanisms help in the effective implementation of protection activities.

Strategic objective 12
To ensure service delivery meets the protection needs of beneficiaries, including vulnerable groups

Strategic objective 13
To safeguard and advance the rights of Palestine refugees by promoting respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and international refugee law


• UNRWA developed a multi-sectoral approach to address gender-based violence, and in all fields of operation referral systems were developed to increase survivors’ access to services
• A total of 1,316 UNRWA staff and 255 staff and volunteers from community-based organizations were trained in detection, referral and counselling for survivors of gender-based violence

Strategic objective 14
To strengthen refugee capacity to formulate and implement sustainable social services in their communities


• A capacity-assessment toolkit that measures the capacity of community-based organizations, developed in 2010, was applied to 20 per cent of UNRWA-supported community-based organizations
• Eight community development centres (seven in the Gaza Strip and one in the Syrian Arab Republic) were built, reconstructed or extended. Two community development centres and a women’s programme centre were under construction

Strategic objective 15
To ensure Palestine refugee registration and eligibility for UNRWA services are carried out in accordance with relevant international standards


• 61.8 per cent of new applicants were processed within one month
• All documents have been digitized
• All registration officers have been trained in using the new refugee registration information system


78. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of December 1949. The Agency is a subsidiary body of the Assembly and became operational on 1 May 1950, responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. It is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with a population of 4,797,723 registered Palestine refugees under its mandate as at end 2011, and over 30,000 staff.

79. The Agency’s mission is to assist Palestine refugees in achieving their full potential in human development until a durable and just solution is found to the refugee issue. The Agency fulfils its humanitarian and human development mandate by providing protection and essential services to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. Its services include basic (and in Lebanon, secondary) education, comprehensive primary health care, emergency relief, social interventions, microfinance, shelter and infrastructural support.

1Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip”, Fact sheet (October 2011).
2See UNRWA, “Socio-economic developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2010” (2011). Rates under the relaxed definition of unemployment, which considers discouraged workers as unemployed and is considered more relevant in contexts with high labour force frustration and low participation rates, such as that of the Gaza Strip. Unemployment rates under the more restricted International Labour Organization (ILO) definition decreased from 38 per cent in 2010 to 28 per cent in the third quarter of 2011.
3According to estimates by the Department of Safety and Security.
4Thirty-six of the deaths and 54 of the injuries were tunnel-related. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor (January 2012).
5The United Nations estimates that there were, additionally, an average of 435 unstaffed obstacles throughout the West Bank. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor (September 2011).
6Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor (January 2012).
7Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, “Press report: preliminary estimates of quarterly national accounts (third quarter 2011)” (Ramallah, Palestine, 2011).
8The closed area between the 1949 armistice line (the Green Line) and the barrier.
9Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Monthly Humanitarian Monitor (December 2011).
10See A/64/13, paras. 52-55.
11See A/66/13, paras. 44-45.
12 Latest internal UNRWA data, as at start 2011.
13 As at end 2010.

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