In collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) organized a ‘Student Parliament Forum’ on 22 May 2014 at UNESCO Palace in Beirut. The forum was attended by UNRWA Director of Education Dr. Caroline Pontefract, UNRWA Lebanon education staff, NRC representatives and around 250 students representing student parliaments from all 69 UNRWA schools in Lebanon.
In her speech, Dr. Pontefract focused on the role of youth and children as promising future leaders and said: “Children have different talents and potentials. We need to respect these differences and preferences among our children and build up their capacities accordingly so they can play a role in social change and development.”
The main objectives of the forum were to raise awareness on the Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance (HRCRT) Toolkit and related parliament projects, to strengthen the role of student parliaments in carrying out in-school and out-of-school activities, and to share the experiences of parliaments through the presentation of different thematic activities implemented in schools, especially in the nine schools in Beirut supported by NRC.
NRC cooperation with UNRWA began even before an MoU was signed in 2011. In Lebanon, it began in 2009 with the ‘Listening Schools Programme’, followed by the ‘Communicating Schools Programme’ in Lebanon and Jordan in 2010. Currently, there is joint work in Beirut between UNRWA and NRC under the ‘School Inclusion’ project.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 69 million.
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