Published On: Mon, Jun 8th, 2015

European Development Days: UNRWA explores how to further improve services to Palestine refugees

On 3 and 4 June, UNRWA prominently participated in the European Development Days (EDDs) Brussels, that took place under the theme “our world, our dignity, our future”, and attracted over 6,000 high‐profile political decision makers, development practitioners, international organisations, advocacy organisations, private sector representatives, media and EU staff from Brussels and delegations worldwide

Teaming up with WHO and UNESCO and supported by the European Union, UNRWA ran two lab sessions on the respective topics of health care access for refugees and global citizenship education.

Led by Dr. Akihiro Seita, UNRWA Director of Health, and Dr. Masoud Dara, Senior Advisor at WHO, the session on “Refugees and internally displaced persons: right to health, right to life” saw Walter Seidel, Head of Sector Health within the EU Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, Benjamin Charlier, Operations Advisor at ICRC, James Denselow, Director of Campaigns for Medical Aid for Palestinians as well as the Ukrainian Minister of Health, H.E. Alexander Kvitashvili debate and discuss the pressing health issues and their determinants for the refugees and displaced populations.

For Palestine refugees, the largest refugee populations in the world, the surge of non-communicable diseases, added to the re-emergence of a number of communicable diseases – particularly in Syria –, was identified as the main health issue. UNRWA efforts to address such health needs were acknowledged, but the current challenges the Agency is facing, both in terms of its financial situation and with regard to the overall instability of the region and vulnerability of the refugee populations, were also recognized.

In parallel, Dr. Caroline Pontefract, UNRWA Director of Education, worked with UNESCO to debate “Understanding and Implementing Global Citizenship Education”, with Christopher Castle, Chief, Section of Health and Global Citizenship Education at UNESCO, Ozlem Eskiocak, UNRWA Human Rights Education Programme Coordinator, Tristan McCowan, Reader in Education at University College London and Dina Kiwan, Associate Professor at the American University of Beirut. Panellists emphasized the critical importance of Global Citizenship Education and the need to empower learners to engage and take on active roles to face and resolve global challenges and ultimately to become proactive contributors to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.

Ozlem Eskiocak highlighted that, despite teaching in a complex environment of protracted conflict, where the community often feels being deprived of basic human rights and isolated from the world, UNRWA succeeds to teach human rights values. The foundation of the success of the programme lies in the participatory process of its development and implementation which involves students, teachers but also the community.

Dr. Pontefract thanked the European Union for the generous and reliable contributions which allow UNRWA to maintain and further develop its education programme for the daily benefit of over half a million Palestine refugee children and youth across the Near East.

At the EDD Practice Village, the UNRWA information stand served as an opportunity to inform the interested public about the various support services as well as the dynamic partnership with the European Union, which has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region. Visitors were particularly interested in the innovative UNRWA Human Rights Education programme and related projects such as #myvoicemyschool.

The European Union

The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees, providing crucial and reliable support to UNRWA since 1971. Between 2007 and 2014, the European Union contributed over EUR 1 billion ( US$ 1.44) in support of UNRWA, including US$ 906 million to the General Fund. In addition, the EU has generously contributed to UNRWA humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. EU Member States provide additional crucial support to the Agency. The partnership between the EU and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives , access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

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