UNESCO reaffirms its historic support to the UNRWA education programme

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The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides assistance and protection to some 5 million Palestine refugees, welcomed Dr. Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to its headquarters in Amman for a three-day visit to its education programme.

Dr. Tang’s visit followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between UNRWA and UNESCO last month. The MoU, signed in the presence of Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, former UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi and Dr. Caroline Pontefract, Director of UNRWA/UNESCO Education Department, reaffirmed the importance of the 64-year relationship between the two agencies.

UNESCO has been supporting the UNRWA education programme since its inception, in 1950, by providing strategic and technical expertise through high-level UNESCO education staff. More recently,UNESCO technical input – Dr. Pontefract is a UNESCO staff member - has helped UNRWA review its education programme to address the new education demands of the twenty-first century.

As part of his visit, Dr. Tang met with the UNRWA education leadership team and visited a number of UNRWA education installations that gave him a concrete overview of the education services UNRWA provides, ranging from basic education and technical and vocational training to pre- and in-service teacher education at the higher-education level. Led by Dr. Pontefract and education programme managers from the Jordan field, Dr. Tang visited preparatory schools in Nuzha and the Baqa’a refugee camp, the Wadi Seer Vocational Training Centre, the Amman Training Centre, the Education Development Centre and the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Arts.

Dr. Tang’s visit enabled the senior leadership of UNESCO to experience first-hand the positive impact that the UNRWA education programme has on the community of Palestine refugees, and develop an understanding of the challenging environment in which these services are provided.

“I am impressed about the great work, and would like congratulate UNRWA’s education programme for its achievements towards ensuring that all Palestine refugees have access to quality education”, said Dr. Tang. “With the signing of the MoU, UNESCO has made a clear statement that it will continue to support UNRWA, and that our cooperation is of mutual value and importance, as we at UNESCO can greatly benefit from UNRWA’s unique experience in education programme delivery and the implementation of innovative education programmes such as the Human Rights Conflict Resolution and Tolerance Programme, just to name one of them.”

“UNESCO’s continued inputs to the UNRWA education programme have been instrumental in helping it deliver quality education to three generations of Palestinians”, said Dr. Pontefract. “We are deeply appreciative of UNESCO’s ongoing commitment to Palestinian refugees, and look forward to strengthening our collaboration with Dr. Tang and his team at UNESCO.”

The visit also included meetings with a high-level representative of the Jordanian Ministry of Education and the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.


UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.