The twenty-sixth annual meeting of the Council of Educational Affairs of the League of Arab States (Arab League) with the Department of Education of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was held in Cairo from 6 to 9 November 2016 to discuss the achievements and challenges of the UNRWA education programme. The meeting, held annually in Cairo at the General Secretariat League of Arab States, brings together senior management of the UNRWA field and headquarters (HQ) education programme with the representatives of Palestinian Affairs from the Agency’s host countries and the members of the Arab League. On behalf of the host countries and the Palestinian National Authority, the Council expressed their thanks and appreciation for the efforts exerted by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Director of Education Dr. Caroline Pontefract and the management of the UNRWA field education programmes in ensuring the delivery of quality education to Palestine refugee children across the region.
During the meeting, Dr. Pontefract focused on the overall status of the UNRWA education programme and the Agency-wide achievements of the Education Reform. She described how the key Education Reform targets had been met and highlighted the UNRWA Education in Emergencies (EiE) approach and its role in supporting the continued education of children impacted by the Syria conflict. The chiefs of education from the Agency’s five fields of operations also provided overviews and updates on the education programme in their respective fields, sharing both achievements and challenges.
Members of the Arab League Council expressed their concerns about the financial challenges facing the Agency and the importance of ensuring that the delivery of education services continues. The UNRWA team emphasized that despite the challenges, the focus remains on ensuring quality and equity of education provision.
The ‘Recommendations’ of the meeting affirmed the importance of the Agency’s efforts to embed, enrich and build upon the achievements to date of the Education Reform and, within that, the EiE approach. A ‘Communiqué and Resolutions’ document was also prepared to be passed on to the meeting of Foreign Ministers and that of the Heads of States.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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