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UNRWA Inhibited By ‘Turmoil, Conflict, Resource Constraints’: New Report

NEW YORK – A new assessment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was published Tuesday by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), finding that “overall, political turmoil, conflict, travel and trade restrictions, and resource constraints, have significantly inhibited UNRWA’s ability to deliver results and to meet planned delivery targets.”
The assessment, which examined the performance of the organization from 2017 to 2018, looked at its organizational effectiveness and the results it achieved against its objectives.
This was the second MOPAN assessment of UNRWA; the first was conducted in 2011. It will be discussed at a conference in Amman on June 18.
While the report found that, in general, “UNRWA is highly knowledgeable about its mandate and context, given its long-standing engagement in the region and the strength of its workforce,” it also found that the organization’s work is affected by its operating environment. This includes the absence of political solutions regarding a Palestinian state, the Gaza blockade and the Syrian civil war, as well as the “fluctuations and scarcity of its resource pool.”
Last year, the United States stopped giving aid to UNRWA, cutting around $300 million dollars from the organization’s operating budget, which it reports to be $1.2 billion. In April 2019, it was reported that the agency had an overall deficit of $446 million, though this was subsequently covered by increased contributions from other countries.
Operating at a deficit is not new to UNRWA. Already in 2009, it reported the same annual operating budget of $1.2 billion with an annual shortfall of around $200 million. At that time, the United States contributed around $248 million.
“The persistent funding crisis has had a significant impact on UNRWA’s ability to invest in its services, development and systems beyond the ‘essentials’ of delivering education, health, relief and social services and camp services,” the report stated. MOPAN noted that UNRWA is primarily funded from voluntary contributions.
The agency has a staff of more than 28,000 people – mostly Palestinian refugees from the “refugee communities that UNRWA serves, MOPAN reported. It has headquarters in Amman, Gaza and the eastern part of Jerusalem.
MOPAN reported that it was forced to evaluate UNRWA based on a “limited body of independent evidence,” which included reviews of 150 documents, 89 staff interviews and 42 partner surveys in the agency’s five field operations: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Other highlights of the assessment include that “risks to the organization in regard to service delivery remain high, at least in the short term, and will continue to require active management,” and that UNRWA would benefit from addressing a lack of strategic evaluations.
“There is very limited independent evaluation to demonstrate and to guide both the organization’s progress towards its strategic objectives and its contribution to the learning and path of wider humanitarian and development goals in the region,” MOPAN found.
It also reported that the agency could become more strategic in how it manages its workforce and could further advance its delivery of a protection agenda.
At the same time, the report described UNRWA in 2018 as an organization that is “competent, resilient and resolute.”
“UNRWA provides a lifeline for extremely poor families and offers stability in an inherently unstable environment by keeping alive the hopes and possibilities of Palestine refugees,” according to the report.
“It does so, for example, by delivering a solid, basic education and by representing Palestine refugees within the UN and with UN member states.”
MOPAN is a network of 18 countries that share a common interest in assessing the effectiveness of the major multilateral organizations they fund, including UN agencies, international financial institutions and global funds. UNRWA was one of 14 organizations assessed between 2017 and 2018.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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