30 April 2021

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is disappointed by the language adopted by the European Parliament in its 2019 discharge resolution on European Union (EU) budget implementation. The language implies that UNRWA teaches and disseminates hate speech and encourages violence within its schools. UNRWA is a United Nations Agency with zero tolerance for hatred, incitement to violence or discrimination. It unequivocally rejects such unfounded assertions and confirms that its educational materials uphold and advance the UN principles and values of neutrality, human rights, equality and non-discrimination regarding race, gender, language and religion.

Host country curricula are used by UNRWA in all its fields of operations and the content of the educational materials is thoroughly reviewed to ensure that it is in line with UN values and principles. In the rare cases where discrepancies are found, a robust system is in place to address them. To suggest that hate is widespread within the Agency and schools is not only false and misleading, but it validates sensationalist and politically motivated attacks which deliberately seek to discredit UNRWA and harm the most vulnerable section of the community: the Palestine refugee children.

The European Parliament’s call for an open-source platform to publish all our educational materials is misplaced: UNRWA has recently launched a centralized digital learning platform which hosts our educational materials for teachers and students.  It provides a safe and centrally monitored system for teachers and administrators which includes a process for rigorous review of all content though a humanitarian principled lens. This approach ensures an Agency-wide coherence and alignment with educational objectives and UN values. UNRWA has a zero-tolerance policy for any deviation to UN principles. Nevertheless, UNRWA acknowledges that there cannot be zero risk when operating in a complex humanitarian setting and in a highly politicized environment. To this end, the Agency spares no efforts to reduce the risks of ensure that violations of UN values are at an absolute minimum. Members of the Parliament have been duly informed and kept up to date regarding this important development, and we profoundly regret that UNRWA investments have been ignored by many members of the European Parliament in its 2019 discharge resolution on EU budget implementation.

The EU and UNRWA have partnered for 50 years in support of Palestine refugees and the European Parliament has always been a key actor in this partnership. The investment of the European Union in UNRWA has enabled over 2.5 million Palestine refugees to graduate from UNRWA schools, developing their full potential and contributing to the prosperity and the stability of the Middle East. Numerous external parties have validated the quality and content of the UNRWA education, including its unique Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance and Conflict Resolution programme. A number of former UNRWA students have joined world-leading institutions or have become part of scientific research groups in some of the most exclusive research centres in the world. These achievements are so far from the assertion that UNRWA is a vehicle for hate, on the contrary, they are the antidote for a very troubled region.

Oversight and accountability of any organization is vital and UNRWA welcomes the opportunity to receive any member of the European Parliament in any of its 711 schools to see first-hand the environment and teaching, and to engage with the students and educators.