UNRWA and the European Union: Changing Contexts for Palestine Refugees

October 2019

by Rebecca Chacon Naranjo

This paper explores the political, financial and administrative crisis faced by the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as well as the nature of the EU-UNRWA relationship, with particular focus on EUMS contributions to UNRWA and the EU-UNRWA Joint Declaration 2017-2020. It demonstrates how the financial, administrative and political problems UNRWA is facing today are a result of it being an agency designed to deliver short term, rapid relief.

While UNRWA has factually become a key political player in the topic of Palestinian refugees today, its mandate impedes it from having any real political bargaining power. The paper will argue that the EU’s policy towards UNRWA has exacerbated the latter’s problems due to the faulty assumption that it indeed has such bargaining power. The paper will explain how the EU could possibly remedy (at least part of) UNRWA’s current issues by virtue of it recently becoming its primary donor.

Read the executive summary in English, or in French.

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