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UN Palestine refugee agency

Topic covered:

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.


UN Palestine refugee agency


What to study?

For prelims and mains: UNRWA- functions, funding, significance and challenges.


Context: India has contributed USD 5 million in 2019 to UN Palestine refugee agency. The contribution was provided in support of UNRWA’s core programmes and services, including education, health care, and relief and social services.



India has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) core budget, from USD 1.25 million in 2016 to USD 5 million in 2018.



  1. It is a relief and human development agencythat was established in 8 December 1949.
  2. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. The Agency began operations on 1 May 1950.
  3. UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR.
  4. Funding: UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States. UNRWA also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.
  5. Aid is provided in five areas of operation:Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.



  1. UNRWA has been providing health, education, relief and social services, as well as emergency humanitarian assistance, across its five fields of operation Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip since 1950.
  2. The Agency currently serves 5.4 million Palestinian refugees 20% of the world’s refugees.


Challenges before UNRWA:

  1. The UN agency is going through a difficult financial situation due to voluntary contributions from a limited donor base.
  2. There is a projected shortfall of more than USD 200 million against a funding requirement of approximately USD 1.2 billion for UNRWA this year.
  3. The shortfall may impact the agency’s ability to provide essential services to the Palestine refugees, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.
  4. Besides, a corruption scandal involving sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation against whistleblowers and lots of business-class travel has gripped the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.


Need of the hour:

  1. Traditional donors of UNRWA should consider enhancing their contributions.
  2. Non-donor member states should consider contributing to UNRWA in solidarity with the Palestine refugees.


Sources: the Hindu.