Our arrival in Amman!
by: Miriam Aced, Project Group Coordinator
The Project Group “Strategic Communication Between UNRWA and Palestine Refugees” has embarked on a study trip to Amman, Jordan. The first cohort of students arrived on the 21st of February and has already embarked on some touristic activities. Other than exploring Amman and Jordan, the Project Group’s main goal is to meet with members of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees’ Ethics Office for a workshop which will cover, amongst others, the research Brandt School students have been carrying out, as well as some refugee camp visits.
Context on the Project Group Research
In the context of UNRWA’s overall mandate to nurture a culture of ethics, integrity and accountability across the Agency, the Ethics Office has identified accountability to beneficiaries as an important area of attention. Whereas the Agency has well-established mechanisms, policies and practices in place that inform and structure its relationship with donors, host countries, the media, vendors and other external parties, its relationship with and accountability towards Palestine refugees, and in particular those refugees that are beneficiaries of its services, is more fragmented and less strategic in nature. Beneficiary relations are an integral aspect of the Agency’s operations and as such involve tens of thousands of UNRWA front-line staff on a daily basis. Yet, the Agency has no overarching policy on beneficiary relations and accountability.
Recent developments in the humanitarian and human development sectors are suggesting a more systematic approach to issues such as refugee participation and beneficiary complaints handling mechanisms, amongst others. The work of the Inter Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (IASC) is of particular relevance in this domain. At its meeting in December 2011, IASC Principals adopted five Commitments on Accountability to Affected Populations (CAAP) which are:
- Feedback and complaints;
- Participation and
- Design, monitoring and evaluation.
After I got in touch with UNRWA and following some internal reflection on their part, it was agreed that the topic of this Project Group would be the development of a compendium of good practice in beneficiary relations and accountability, drawn from both the corporate and (international) public sector. Each student worked on a different topic – good practices in:
- national public sectors in UNRWA host countries (Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) and industrialised countries (USA, Sweden and Germany)
- corporate sectors in industrialised countries (USA, Sweden and Germany) and BRICS countries;
- international organisations (including internationational non-governmental organisations and international governmental organisations)
Workshop and refugee camp visit in Jordan
The workshop will take place on 27 and 28 February and students will present their findings one by one. UNRWA will also present the Agency’s beneficiary accountability and practices to date. Finally, students and UNRWA stakeholders will brainstorm how UNRWA can benefit from international good practices in order to improve beneficiary accountability.
Another exciting opportunity, as mentioned above, is that UNRWA is taking the Brandt School students on a camp visit on 26 February. The visit will take place in the Talbieh Refugee camp. There, students will have an opportunity to meet with a Head Teacher of the camp’s Preparatoy Girls School, a Head Teacher of the Elementary Boys School, a doctor at the Talbieh Health Centre, as well as individuals working at the camp’s Disability Centre and Women’s Programme Centre.
‘Talbieh camp was one of six “emergency” camps set up in 1968 for 5,000 Palestine refugees and displaced persons who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Unlike the other camps in Jordan, Talbieh’s inhabitants were mainly displaced persons, not refugees. Also, residents are mostly Bedouin. Talbieh was set up on an area of about 0.13 square kilometres, 35km south of Amman. It is the largest camp in terms of state land. Tents were donated by the Iranian Red Lion and Sun Society, who later replaced them with concrete shelters. Many shelters are in a bad state of repair with zinc or asbestos sheet roofs, structural problems, and poor natural light and ventilation.’
If readers are interested in what the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) does, why it was created, etc., please visit its website (www.unrwa.org) or contact me once I am back in Erfurt!