2010 – 2015

Executive summary

i) At UNRWA’s creation in 1949, few could have predicted that the Agency would be required to serve the needs of three generations of Palestine refugees. As long as a just and lasting solution to the conflict that displaced them remains elusive, UNRWA will continue to play its unique role in advocating and providing for the human development and humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. This Medium Term Strategy (MTS) is UNRWA’s strategy for its programmes and field operations for the period 2010-2015, and will guide three, two-year cycles of field planning. The MTS is best understood in conjunction with other key documents that outline in detail how the Agency’s strategy will be implemented in practice by UNRWA’s field offices and headquarters departments and through its biennial Programme Budget.

ii) Chapter one describes the Agency’s mission, the context in which it operates, and the planning assumptions guiding the strategy: (i) while the MTS is based on the status quo scenario prevailing, UNRWA must be ready to adapt to new field realities; (ii) continued high staff costs; (iii) the need for better data to support planning; and (iv) the risk to UNRWA’s performance – and especially to quality – from continued underfunding, and the need for better financing overall to enable the strategy to be implemented.

iii) Chapter two describes a new programme strategic framework that provides direction for the Agency based on 15 strategic objectives, each of which contributes to one or more of four human development goals: a long and healthy life; knowledge and skills; a decent standard of living; and human rights enjoyed to the fullest. To help UNRWA focus its scarce resources, the MTS further defines UNRWA’s priority services, of which certain core services

will remain common to all fields.

iv) At the heart of the strategy is a commitment to focus on improving the quality of UNRWA services. Over time, in the face of a growing refugee population and static resources, the quality of UNRWA’s services has declined.  Providing quality services is not only a necessity for human development, it is fundamental to respecting refugees rights and their dignity. Chapter three describes UNRWA’s commitment to providing quality services, tackling poor quality where it exists and prioritising investment in activities that enhance quality, over other demands. A stronger focus on protecting and meeting the needs of vulnerable groups, including giving them priority access to some services, is a second key theme, in response to deepening need among some refugees. Other important themes for the medium term are mainstreaming gender-awareness, strengthening partnerships, and increasing refugee participation.

v) Chapter four sets out directions in UNRWA’s programmes in response to the strategic framework. Under the goals of helping refugees to have a long and healthy life and to acquire knowledge and skills, strategies to ensure access, and to tackle poor quality of services are described for UNRWA’s health and education programmes.  To help refugees achieve a decent standard of living, UNRWA will: (i) strengthen its social protection interventions to help the poorest; (ii) expand and better integrate services that help refugees escape poverty through employment, such as technical and vocational training and microfinance opportunities; and (iii) prioritise shelter improvements for vulnerable refugees and pursue a new approach to camp improvement. To help refugees enjoy human rights to the fullest UNRWA will play an active role in safeguarding the protection needs of Palestine refugees and promoting respect for their rights; promote refugees’ self-reliance; and continue to oversee refugee registration in line with relevant international standards.

vi) The five fields in which UNRWA operates share similarities, but are also somewhat distinctive. Chapter five outlines the defining characteristics and issues in each field context, and key priorities for the medium term. Over time these contextual factors have led to differences in the conditions in which refugees find themselves, and determine what UNRWA can achieve and what must be the focus of UNRWA’s resources and effort. In Jordan the refugee population is the largest of all UNRWA’s fields of operation; in Syria there is high youth unemployment; in Lebanon, need is acute but opportunities have been limited by ongoing denial of rights; in Gaza widespread social and physical devastation results from intensive armed conflict; and in the West Bank, vulnerability is increasing due to the Israeli occupation and in particular the access regime.  All UNRWA field offices have planned for the first of the three biennia that will make up the six-year MTS period, guided by UNRWA’s goals and 15 strategic objectives. Field planning, contained in Field Implementation Plans (FIPs) also accords with the Agency’s categorisation of priority services (Chapter two) in which core services, such as basic education and health are common to all five fields. The focus on other priority services varies, depending on field needs and realities.

vii) The Organisational Development process (OD) has laid the foundations of a transformation in UNRWA’s management, of which decentralisation and innovation are core themes. The momentum and benefits of OD will have to be sustained in the Agency far into the future. Chapter six highlights elements of these reforms – already achieved or planned – that will have the most direct impact on improving UNRWA’s ability to deliver the programmes and services outlined in the MTS. First, UNRWA has reviewed its approach to resource mobilisation in response to the Agency’s funding constraints. Second, establishment of strategic planning processes, of which the MTS is a product, will result in the MTS being translated into action through three cycles of detailed FIPs, Headquarters Implementation Plans (HIPs), and two-year Programme Budgets based on the strategy. These documents provide details related to implementation and accountability such as intended outcomes, indicators, targets and baselines, consistent with the direction set out in this MTS. Other drivers of success will be the implementation of results-based budgeting by which resources will be linked to the MTS; improved arrangements for knowledge management, in particular the need to build better capacity to gather and use data on refugees; more robust arrangements for evaluation; human resource management reforms; and stronger risk management and accountability.