Frequently asked questions
Yes. In June 2019, an independent performance assessment of UNRWA conducted by the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) and commissioned by some of the world’s top donors concluded that the Agency is “competent, resilient and resolute”. The report considers UNRWA engagement in the region as highly relevant as it delivers critical support for the Palestine refugee population, to the host authorities and to the wider development processes of the region.
MOPAN comprises 18 countries that share a common interest in assessing the effectiveness of the major multilateral organisations they fund. These include United Nations agencies, international financial institutions and global funds. The network that generates, collects, analyses and presents relevant and credible information on effectiveness and performance has just released its second assessment report of UNRWA.
The assessment commended UNRWA for its strong management, robust and resilient organizational architecture, strategic vision and effective programme delivery, as well as the capacity and commitment of its workforce and its strategic approach to resource mobilization. It also affirmed the strength of the Agency’s approach to results, risk and financial management, concluding that UNRWA is uniquely well-placed to ensure that the humanitarian, human development and protection needs of Palestine refugees are met.
The operational definition of a Palestine refugee is any person whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict."
Palestine refugees are persons who fulfill the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.
Read the full eligibility rules (PDF).
In May 1951, UNRWA inherited a list of 950,000 persons from its predecessor agencies.
In the first four months of operations, UNRWA reduced this list to 860,000 persons, based on painstaking census efforts and identification of fraudulent claims.
The 1948 registered refugees and their descendants now number 5.4 million, and mainly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.
Host governments allocate areas of land for use as refugee camps. Some of the land is state-owned, but the majority is privately owned. UNRWA does not own the land.
No. UNRWA does not administer the camps but is responsible for running education, health, and relief and social services programmes, which are located inside and outside camps. The Agency is not responsible for security or law and order in the camps and has no police force or intelligence service. This responsibility has always remained with the relevant host and other authorities.
UNRWA implements most of its services directly. However, staff from UNRWA and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work together to provide some essential services for Palestine refugees. They are generally medical-humanitarian, human rights and development-oriented.
Yes. Partnership with other UN agencies is an important aspect of UNRWA's work, including with the UN Country Teams in its areas of operation. In education and health, UNRWA works closely with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
UNRWA also cooperates with other UN agencies such as UNICEF and UN Habitat, as well as specialised agencies such as the World Bank in their respective areas of expertise.
The UN General Assembly has affirmed “the necessity for the continuation of the work” of UNRWA and “the importance of its unimpeded operation and its provision of services for the well-being and human development of the Palestine refugees and for the stability of the region.” The General Assembly has renewed UNRWA's mandate repeatedly pending the just resolution of the question of the Palestine refugees.
On 1 May 1950.
Immediately after the Arab-Israeli hostilities of 1948, emergency assistance was provided by international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, League of Red Cross Societies and the American Friends Service Committee.
In November 1948, the United Nations established the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR) to extend aid and relief to Palestine refugees and coordinate efforts of NGOs and other UN bodies.
The United Nations established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) under UN General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV), of 8 December 1949, as a subsidiary organ of the United Nations. The Agency inherited the assets of the UNRPR and took over the ICRC’s refugee registration records.
Protection is what UNRWA does to safeguard and advance the rights of Palestine refugees. In particular, UNRWA:
- Promotes respect for Palestine refugees’ rights through monitoring, reporting and intervention
- Delivers its services in a manner that promotes and respects the rights of beneficiaries
- Ensures that protection needs are addressed in all aspects of programming, policies and procedures
- Advocates in public statements as well as private interventions with a broad range of interlocutors to promote the protection of refugee rights.
No. For example, the Agency also provides services to refugees and people displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967 and subsequent hostilities.