The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) of December 1949. The Agency is a subsidiary body of the Assembly and became operational on 1 May 1950, responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. It is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with a population of approximately 5 million registered Palestine refugees under its mandate and over 30,000 staff.
Internally, UNRWA is guided by its Gender Policy (2007), Medium-Term Strategy (2016-2021), and Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021): 'Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives.' Further, UNRWA is guided by all relevant commitments by the UN system, including but not limited to: The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; The United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women (UNiTE Campaign); and Sustainable Development Goal.
As part of the Agency's commitment to gender equality, UNRWA prioritizes targeted interventions based on identified field priorities, one of which is gender-based violence (GBV). Thus, in view of addressing GBV holistically, UNRWA adopted in 2009 a multisectoral approach, which was informed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for GBV in Humanitarian Settings. One of the core aspects of the multisectoral approach is the centrality of survivours’ rights and needs, such as ensuring access to adequate services, confidentiality and safety. UNRWA's approach to addressing GBV focused on four main areas: i) training UNRWA staff to identify, refer and provide support to GBV survivors; ii) developing referral pathways; iii) building partnerships with external service providers; and iv) raising awareness and involving Palestine Refugee communities in the protection from GBV, to enhance both response and prevention.
In 2014, UNRWA began working on addressing GBV in emergencies, based on increasing concerns on responding and mitigating GBV in the context of the conflicts in Syria and in Gaza. Building on this, a process for increasing the institutional capacity of the Agency to address GBV in emergency contexts started in 2015 through a multi-year programme entitled 'Building Safety', which included the development of the following key components: i) Guidelines for GBV Risk Mitigation in Emergencies (2017); ii) GBV Training Package (2018); iii) E-learning Course on GBV Risk Mitigation in Emergencies (currently under development); iv) GBV Prevention Framework (2017). Integral to the work on GBV in emergencies, UNRWA has also been working on enhancing community participation and engagement.
- UNRWA Gender Policy (2007)
- UNRWA Experience in GBV Programming: Lessons from the first five years (2015)- What’s at Stake Fact sheet (2018)
- UNRWA Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021): Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives (2016)
UNRWA has developed guidelines, a referral system and a training course for health staff on handling cases of violence against women and children in UNRWA clinics. The UNRWA West Bank field office produced a draft brochure on domestic violence for health clinics.Hide
UNRWA does not generally work on legislation development but provides input as and when requested by host governments and partners.
UNRWA supports women’s programme centres in all refugee communities, where awareness-raising, support sessions on gender-based violence, and often legal advice, are provided to women. Women’s programme centres have kindergartens, where possible abuse of children and women occurring in the home can be detected and counselling and advice are provided in such cases. Violence against women and children is also addressed through theatre and role playing.Hide
UNRWA provides protection, support, and services (education, health, relief and social services) through established referral systems in all five fields of operations, in more than 150 locations (which include camps, health centres, and schools). View More
UNRWA provides protection, support, and services (education, health, relief and social services) through established referral systems in all five fields of operations, in more than 150 locations (which include camps, health centres, and schools). Referral systems created pathways between the different UNRWA programmes internally, as well as externally involving other service providers to ensure holistic support to survivors. Through these internal and external pathways, UNRWA is able to provide psychosocial counselling, legal services, and medical services among other. The Agency looks into survivors’ satisfaction with GBV services based on a survey tool with close-ended questions on satisfaction with services received through UNRWA as well as through external service providers. Over the course of the two-year period, 2014-2015, UNRWA was able to identify 5950 survivors, who have in turn accessed 8362 services, primarily on psychosocial counselling and legal services through the referral systems set up.Hide
UNRWA prioritized addressing gender-based violence in 2009 and is developing a systematic multi-sectoral approach to gender-based violence, which includes services provision, prevention, working with community leaders and participation in national advocacy efforts. To increase victims’ access to services, UNRWA is developing referral systems in its fields of operations. In West Bank, a pilot intervention of a community protection referral was developed with the support of the BirZeit University for the referral system in 9 camps (Kalandia, Jalazone, Duheisheh, Aroub, Doura, Aida, Al Azeh, Aqbat Jaber, Ein Sultan). This intervention is based on a concept of community protection 'committees', comprised of UNRWA staff, as well as a number of key community members. The purpose of the committees is to coordinate referrals both internally to UNRWA, as well as to external resources.Hide
In Gaza, UNRWA is consolidating the services within the legal advice bureaus, while developing 5 ‘one-stop’ centres. In Syria, interventions have been consolidated in the ‘legal advice bureaus’ (LABs) in two areas (Yarmouk and Deraa) to add social interventions and counselling to the existing legal aid. A hotline service for victims was launched in May 2010. In Jordan, a national referral system exists and UNRWA is developing the capacities of the LABs to act as liaison mechanisms with the national structures (Family Protection Unit and Jordanian National Women Commission). In Lebanon, a referral system has been put in place in the Tyr region.Hide
UNRWA’s GBV referral system underwent significant expansion by building/consolidating new partnerships and by introducing the referral systems to new regions and areas. This resulted in 1,217 new survivors being detected by frontline staff working in UNRWA’s main programmes (ie. Education, Health, and Relief and Social Services) and 2,0858 survivors accessing services. The services comprised psychological and social support, legal aid, and medical care, and were provided both internally, through UNRWA’s programmes, and externally, via external partners.Hide
UNRWA has installed referral systems in its five fields of operations (Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and West Bank). In Gaza, UNRWA has established 12 one-stop centres located in UNRWA’s heath centres. In the West Bank, a multi-sectoral, community approach to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) has been the core of the referral system. Family and Child Protection Committees made up of representatives from UNRWA departments and community members are in place in 10 refugee camps to promote awareness and prevention of GBV/violence against women (VAW), and provide protection, and access to services. In Jordan, the primary mechanism of the system is to provide assistance to GBV survivors through referral to external partners who would be able to provide more comprehensive support to those seeking assistance. In Syria, the system was developed in Yarmouk and Deraa camps around the Family Support Offices, which consolidated introducing new services (social interventions and case management), while also strengthening relations with external partners to provide services that are not readily available at the offices (psychosocial counselling, sheltering). In Lebanon, the referral is in the early phases of development. Through the system that is being set-up, UNRWA staff will detect and refer GBV victims to its external partners for counselling and support. From January until November 2011, 561 survivors were detected and referred for services, protection and support.Hide
UNRWA continues its collaboration with UNICEF in Jordan to address violence in schools against girls and boys and to establish mechanisms in the health centres to address child abuse. During 2010 UNRWA focused on building referral systems. In Syria, UNRWA has identified its mechanism of referral in Yarmouk and Deraa camps, and worked to enhance staff capacities for detection of gender-based violence victims. In West Bank, UNRWA has collaborated with various stakeholders to develop its referral system, based on a community participation approach, and to organise trainings for medical staff. In Gaza, UNRWA is establishing one-stop shop centres, and has identified the role of staff involved in the process. In Jordan, UNRWA has been working with local partners towards the establishment of a referral system, and has commenced the mapping of external partners to provide support services to victims of gender-based violence.Hide