The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): An Agenda for Conflict

Written by Dr. Rephael Ben-Ari

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This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in Palestinian Manipulation of the International Community1


The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has become one of the largest UN programs, with over 30,000 personnel operating in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. It remains the only UN agency whose area of operation is not global but regional, and that deals with a single group of people. It is also unique in that it directly provides government-like public services to its beneficiaries.

Despite UNRWA’s significant achievements in the humanitarian field, within the last few decades, the vast, quasi-state machinery into which the Agency has evolved has attracted considerable criticism. Recently, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon nominated Pierre Krähenbühl of Switzerland, former Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to the position of UNRWA Commissioner General (CG). Given the tremendous authority and discretion vested in the hands of the CG in articulating the Agency’s strategies, now is the appropriate time to consider the recent developments in UNRWA’s controversial practices and trends, calling for awareness and action on the part of UNRWA’s donor countries.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/un-relief-works-agency-unrwa/#sthash.JJJa6ewX.dpuf

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