On 8 December 2009, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, will be sixty years old: an occasion for sober reflection but also an opportunity to highlight the Agency’s service and achievements during six decades of work alongside millions of Palestine refugees. The anniversary presents UNRWA with a chance to reposition itself among development and humanitarian actors in the Middle East and transmit some powerful messages about the contribution – past and future – that the Agency has and will make to the prosperity and stability of the region. It provides an opportunity to enter into renewed efforts for resource mobilization to fulfill UNRWA’s mandate.

While it would be inappropriate to ‘celebrate’ a 60-year anniversary it would be useful for the agency and its stakeholders to use this historic date to emphasize the important contribution it has made and continues to make to four generations of Palestine refugees. UNRWA will use its 60th anniversary to shape a more appropriate perception of the Agency while carrying a clear political message: six decades of dispossession must end.

To mark the anniversary, UNRWA will oversee, manage and stimulate a variety of activities and events that encourage and allow the full participation of refugees, host authorities, donors, NGOs, local populations and others. The events and activities will continue to unfold throughout the period September 2008 – June 2010, covering a range of issues from children, youth, education, health, relief, social services and micro-finance. Preparations for this initiative began in June 2008.

UNRWA’s efforts will also be directed to build on and broaden its existing donor base and secure urgently needed financial resources for the benefit of the Palestine refugee community. Each department, field office, UNRWA installation, donor and host country has the opportunity to contribute to UNRWA’s 60th anniversary by organizing or branding events under the “UNRWA at 60” umbrella. Special events will be conducted at the United Nations in New York, Vienna, and Geneva, at the EC in Brussels, the League of Arab States, host countries, in the Gulf States and in donor countries. UNRWA will mark its anniversary throughout the world by launching information and PR campaigns, hosting academic and artistic events and with the launch of major publications on Palestine refugee issues associated with UNRWA’s mandate. The organizing of events for Palestine refugees, children, youth, women, host government partners, donors and policy makers aims at raising the awareness of Palestine refugees and UNRWA’s mandate and necessary role.


UNRWA has developed this concept paper in cooperation with the WolfGroup Consultants. The paper introduces the rationale and ambitions for the project, the key messages, desired outcomes and objectives, and outlines the projects that will be developed. The “UNRWA at 60” initiative was conceived at the June 2008 UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting in Damascus. Pending donor pledges and commitments, its implementation will begin in November 2008 and continue through June 2010. The final phase of the initiative will permit the “UNRWA at 60” initiative will be to consolidate its results, learning, and transition them back into the existing UNRWA structures over the course of 2010.

The “UNRWA at 60” initiative will be presented to donors and stakeholders on a number of occasions throughout the month of November 2008.

The project descriptions in this paper illustrate the inter-linkages between the projects that will be showcased in special events in Brussels, New York, Geneva, Vienna and in the region. The commemoration will stage a series of events, putting refugees themselves, and the people who worked with- and alongside the agency as the focal point. “UNRWA at 60” will highlight that its achievements are a product of the efforts of all stakeholders and that we achieve results in synchrony between refugees, host countries and donors, aligned by the mandate of UNRWA. This series intends to culminate in a major pledging conference attempting to close a long-standing funding gap the agency has faced. Addressing this funding gap would concretely improve quality and access to UNRWA services, in turn fostering human security, development and to maintain stability in the region. The services and presence of the Agency must be framed as an indispensable and complementary contribution to the regional and international efforts for peace. UNRWA sees the 60-year anniversary in 2009-2010 as a unique chance to further strengthen relations with its target population while maintaining, building and extending its partnerships.

Full document: