The Visualizing Palestine project has produced a series of excellent infographics depicting the discrimination and marginalization faced by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I have posted one below, but for the full series see their website.
Tags: Chatham House, Minster Lovell Process
Chatham House has published a summary of their recent workshop on the normative dimensions of the Palestinian refugee issue.
This is a summary of discussions that took place during a one-and-a-half day workshop on The Palestinian Refugee Issue: Normative Dimensions, held on 13 and 14 February 2014 in Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire. The participants in the exercise were regional and international experts on the Palestinian refugee issue, acting in a personal capacity.
The ‘normative dimensions’ of the refugee issue refer to the intangible needs of both parties and the moral acknowledgment of these needs, including the acknowledgment of ‘the human dignity and moral worth of victims’. Moral acknowledgment includes statements of apology, as well as recognition of rights and suffering. Participants were divided into working groups and asked to produce ‘formulations’, or multiple versions of language that would meet these needs, with the aim of encouraging new and innovative ideas. In constructing formulations, participants took note of the relevant language from previous negotiations and Track II exercises, including the ‘Beilin-Abu Mazin Talks’, Core Group Track II Exercise, Israeli Camp David Position, Clinton Parameters, Taba Talks, Arab Peace Initiative and the Geneva Accord, among others. The draft formulations ranged from complete paragraphs to one sentence or phrase, and the list can be found in the appendix.
Although this summary presents the needs and perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians in separate sections, throughout the discussions there were internal debates among both perspectives, as well as nuances in individual positions and contributions from international experts with a comparative perspective.
The workshop formed part of Chatham House’s on-going work on the regional dimensions of the Palestinian refugee issue, known as the ‘Minster Lovell Process’2, which aims at an informal and comprehensive discussion of the Palestinian refugee issue, including the role of host countries and international actors. The workshop was hosted by the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Programme and was kindly funded by a grant from the UK Conflict Pool.
Some of the main findings of the workshop include:
- Normative dimensions are central to resolving the refugee issue, although opinions vary on when these dimensions should be addressed. While some argue that negotiations must address intangible needs now to signal acknowledgement of the each party’s deepest needs and thereby facilitate agreement in other areas, others stress that the normative dimensions of the refugee issue should be deferred until after significant progress has been made on other elements of an agreement, such as territorial issues regarding borders and Jerusalem.
- Two of the most pressing intangible needs around the refugee issue are the right of return and recognition of the Jewish character of Israel. On these two questions, mutual Israeli and Palestinian unwillingness to recognize the other’s need becomes a threat to the other’s feeling of legitimacy and security. Palestinians view the right of return as an internationally acknowledged moral and legal right that requires recognition, even if the actual number of refugees returning might be limited or even largely symbolic. Israelis view recognition of Israel’s Jewish character as a signal of regional acceptance of Israel’s founding and continuing legitimacy as a country for the Jewish people, as well as acknowledgment and respect for Jewish identity and Zionism.
- Demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state could become an immediate and permanent obstacle to peace. However, recognition of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people could provide the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of both parties.
- Other key normative dimensions of the refugee issue include acknowledgment and/or apology for 1948, recognition of Palestinian rights and dignity, an end of claims and the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
You’ll find my own take on the workshop here.
Tags: Anna Segall
On 10 February 2014 Anna Segall (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) spoke at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London on the topic of “Refugee Protection in the Middle East and the role of UNRWA.” You’ll find the video of her presentation above.
Anna is a human rights lawyer with 25 years’ experience with international organisations, the International Red Cross, the United Nations, government and the private sector advising on, and advocating for, good governance, integrity and accountability, rule of law, international law, human rights, and protection. Anna is Director of Legal Affairs at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Since July 2013, she has been acting Director of UNRWA Operations, Jordan.
This Seminar offers insight into the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
This Seminar offers insight into the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. The presentation will explore three strands i.e. a brief history and mandate of the agency, the manner in which the protection mandate has been developed including enhancing UNRWA’s engagement with complementary systems such as international human rights law and lastly, current challenges in protection. The former will speak to challenges in the context of UNRWA’s five fields (Gaza, West Bank, Jordan and Syria) as well as Palestinian refugee protection outside UNRWA’s fields of operation.
Tags: Chatham House, Minster Lovell Process
This is a summary of discussions that took place during a one-and-a-half day workshop on The Palestinian Refugee Issue: Compensation and Implementation Mechanisms, held on 18 and 19 December 2013 in Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire. The participants were experts on the Palestinian refugee issue, acting in a personal capacity, from the Palestinian territories, Israel, the international community and host countries. Participants were divided into working groups and asked to design specific mechanisms for Palestinian refugee compensation of the type that might be included in a future Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement. These were then collectively ‘stress-tested’ by the larger group in order to identify particular challenges that might arise.
The workshop formed part of Chatham House’s on-going work on the regional dimensions of the Palestinian refugee issue, known as the ‘Minster Lovell Process’, which aims at an informal and comprehensive discussion of the Palestinian refugee issue, including the role of host countries and international actors. This workshop built on previous work about an implementation mechanism undertaken by Chatham House and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the European Commission in 2009–10.
I recently returned from another in the long-standing “Minster Lovell” series of conferences organized by Chatham House (UK). This time the focus was on the normative dimensions of the Palestinian refugee issue, with the meeting including Palestinian, Israeli, and international experts.
This is a difficult topic, for several reasons. First, the issue touches upon core aspects of Palestinian and Israeli narratives—narratives that often don’t agree. Given the suffering involved by all those who have been displaced, dispossessed, and exiled by the conflict, it can strike a deep emotional cord. In contrast to the previous session at Minster Lovell (which focused on the technical aspects of refugee compensation) the topic is one that largely intangible and hence difficult to precisely categorize or define.
Minster Lovell itself was rather soggy, since the meeting took place amid heavy rainstorms that flooded parts of southern and central England. However, accommodation and arrangements at the Old Swan and Minster Mill were excellent as ever.
The first (half) day of the meeting started with a general discussion of why the normative dimensions of the refugee issue mattered. We then moved on to an examination of Palestinian and Israeli perspectives on the topic. Overall, I would say that five major dimensions of the issue emerged from this:
- Recognition/responsibility/apology. Is it enough for Israel to simply acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, or is more needed—a statement of regret, or perhaps acceptance of responsibility for their expulsion in 1948? To what extent can initiatives such as commemoration, memorialization, historical commissions, or even a truth and reconciliation commission help to address some of these needs?
- The normative dimensions of the right of return. Refugee return is, of course, also a “tangible” question of whether Palestinian refugees and their descendants might be able to return to their ancestral homes with Israel. However, it also has normative dimensions, in that Palestinians view this as an internationally-acknowledged moral and legal right that also requires recognition, even if the actual number of refugees returning might be limited, or even largely symbolic.
- Compensation as a moral element. Any compensation paid to Palestinian refugees would be at least partial reparation for their dispossession. I am doubtful, however (especially after the last workshop) that it could fully addresses the losses and suffering they have experienced. To what extent can compensation perform a symbolic and moral function too?
- Addressing the forced displacement of Jews from Arab countries. In addition to the hundreds of thousand of Palestinians that were forcibly displaced during the establishment of the state of Israel, many Jews also fled from discriminatory treatment in Arab countries. How might the situation of Jewish refugees be addressed in an agreement with regard to such normative dimensions as moral acknowledgement?
- End of claims, moral closure. Can an agreement not only bring to an end claims made against one party by the other, but also bring about a sort of moral closure to the decades of dispossession, violence, and conflict?
- Beilin-Abu Mazen agreement (track II/1995)
- Core Group working paper (track II/1999)
- Camp David negotiations (official/2000)
- Clinton Parameters (official/2000)
- Taba negotiations (official/2001)
- Geneva Initiative (track II/2003)
- Annapolis negotiations (official/2007-08)
In general, in official talks Palestinian side has sought a clear expression of Israeli responsibility for the forced displacement of Palestinian refugees, while Israeli has been unwilling to go beyond an acknowledgement of the refugees’ suffering. A copy of my presentation can be found here. Much of this discussion also drew on an excellent chapter by Mike Molloy and John Bell on “Intangible Needs, Moral Acknowledgement, and the Palestinian Refugee Issue” in The Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for a Resolution (coedited by myself and Roula el-Rifai).
For the second (full) day of the workshop, participants were divided into three working groups, and challenged to develop appropriate language, formulations, linkages, and sequencing that might be used to address these issues in the context of current or future peace negotiations. In contrast to the usual “seminar” format of such discussions (which tend to produce a thoughtful but rather indeterminate output) or “second track” meetings (where the emphasis is often on producing an agreed text), the emphasis here was on brainstorming as many new ideas as possible. While participants certainly expressed their views on the political feasibility of the ideas put forward, the working group moderators made it clear that all ideas were welcome. After all, you never know when interesting synergies might emerge between several different proposals.
To make things interesting, the composition of the working groups was randomly shuffled every 90 minutes or so by drawing names from what the Harry Potter fans among us dubbed the “sorting hat.” I was certainly impressed with the energy and insight that participants devoted to the process.
Ina final session, the working group moderators and the rest of the participants offered some reflections on the discussions. In my own view, several points stood out.
It was generally agreed that the normative dimensions of the refugee issue are centrally important. Achieving political and moral closure for the issue is more than simply a case of shifting people (repatriation, return, resettlement) and money (reparations/compensation). However, there was less agreement on whether it is necessary to address this now, or whether it is better to postpone the issue until issues of borders and Palestinian statehood have been agreed by the parties. In the former case, it was argued that postponing the issue would only fuel the alienation and anger of refugees. In the latter case, it was suggested that progress on territorial issues might create a better atmosphere for addressing difficult normative issues in future. I admit to still being undecided on the question.
The point was made by several participants that Israeli recognition of its historic role in creating refugee issue should not be seen as concession. Rather, it was better understood (when and if such recognition ever happened) as the self-confident act of a modern state that has come to terms with past abuses. After all, it has become increasingly common for democratic countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK, or US to acknowledge past wrongs—not as a sign of weakness, but in rather as an act of political maturity.
There was considerable discussion of how language, acknowledgement, symbolic acts, and truth and reconciliation initiatives might help promote moral closure, justice, and reconciliation. It was recognized, however, that it can be difficult to assure that such measures have the intended effects. There was also considerable debate as to how willing the Israeli public might be to acknowledge some responsibility for the refugee issue.
The question of recognition of the Jewish character of Israel emerged as a surprisingly important theme in what was, after all, a workshop devoted to the Palestinian refugee issue. Some Israeli participants suggested that this was necessary to offset any symbolic or practical Israeli recognition of a Palestinian right of return; others argued that the issue had simply assumed too much political salience in Israel to now be forgotten; still others cited Palestinian reluctance to acknowledge deep Jewish ties to the region as a reason for wanting such recognition. It was also argued that such recognition might facilitate Israeli recognition of Palestinian moral claims.
A large majority of participants were uncomfortable with recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state.” Palestinians asserted that this could be seen as justifying ethnic cleansing in 1948 or legitimizing the treatment of Palestinians in Israel as second class citizens. Many Israelis were uncomfortable with the implications of the formulation for Israeli democracy. It was also widely felt that such terminology, if put forward by the US in its own bridging position, could prove a major stumbling block to progress. Conversely, there was much wider acceptance of recognizing Israel as “homeland of the Jewish people” or other similar formulations.
There was very broad agreement that Jews were displaced from some Arab countries, and were deserving of both recognition and remedy. Many felt this issue had no place in a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement, however, but instead was more properly an issue that should be raised with the states concerned. Others felt that, even though the issue might have been originally raised by the Israeli government largely as a bargaining chip, it was now at the point where it had to be addressed for Israeli domestic political reasons.
In the end, lots of ideas were generated, far too many to be listed here. These will be summarized in a forthcoming Chatham House report on the meeting, which should be available in the coming weeks. When it that report is released it will also be announced here at the PRRN blog.
Tags: Filippo Grandi
Filippo Grandi, the outgoing Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is now making his farewell tour as his term of office comes to an end. Not surprisingly, those who have worked with him over the years are praising him as a dedicated humanitarian who has steered the Agency through increasingly perilous times: chronic budget short-falls; strikes and labour unrest; the devastating social and economic effects of Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on Gaza; continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank; the adverse circumstances and marginalization of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; the tragic devastation of a bloody civil war in Syria; and—last, but certainly not least—the failures of the “peace process” and thus the lack of a just resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue. Commentators will no doubt praise his dedication and leadership. They most likely will note that he always saw himself as serving the Palestinian refugee community on behalf of the international community, rather than simply doing a job. Some may comment on his willingness to hear new ideas, and to listen to competing views with empathy and open-mindedness. A few may even praise his sense of humour, which rarely seemed to desert him despite the many challenges he has faced.
We at Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet feel, however, that there is a need to set the record straight—for while Filippo Grandi may have impressed many as an energetic and selfless humanitarian, we see a much more nefarious picture. We therefore present The Grandi Files.
PRRN has been in the vanguard of those uncovering UNRWA’s involvement in many dark conspiracies as part of Filippo Grandi’s cunning plans to achieve world domination. It was us, for example, that first unmasked UNRWA as a cover acronym for Underhanded Nogooders for Really Wicked Activities.
As previously suggested on this blog, there is every reason to believe that Filippo Grandi and Dr. Evil are closely related—twins, clones, or perhaps even the same person. The physical resemblance is striking.
While many might think that the failures of the peace process are attributable to a hardline Israeli government, internal Palestinian divisions, poor leadership from the US and international community, and the inherent difficulty and complexity of the issues at stake, dedicated investigative journalism has proven that UNRWA itself is the one that has single-handedly blocked progress to peace. Who knew a UN Agency consisting largely of teachers, doctors, and nurses had such power!
Resettling Hamas Terrorists in the US
According to certain right-wing American blogs, UNRWA is in league with Barack “Hussein” Obama to settle Hamas terrorists in the United States, in the guise of refugees. That just has to be true, right?
We believe Filippo Grandi to have been personally responsible for the temporary abduction of “Relief and Works Agency” (or “RWA” to his friends) from the UNRWA logo. As the head of one popular committee for Palestinian refugees based in Gaza noted, “The change of UNRWA’s title is considered a very dangerous indication that could be explained due to the presence of a plan against Palestinian refugees especially after the latest statements by Netanyahu in which he offered to settle the Palestinian refugees outside of Palestine, something that provoked Palestinian refugees in and outside the occupied territories.”
Rumours circulated at the time that RWA was held hostage in darkened basement, until donors came up with additional funds to cover the Agency’s 2011 budget shortfall. When RWA was later released safe and unharmed, Hamas issued a formal statement condemning it all as an attempt to mislead public opinion.
Taking Bags of Cash from Suspicious People in Murky Oxford Hallways
PRRN paparazzi snapped this picture of the outgoing Commissioner-General accepting a paper bag (suspiciously labelled “pirate swag”) in that well-known miscreant hide-out known as the “Refugee Studies Centre,” part of a larger criminal cartel spoken of only as “Oxford University.” What possible legitimate explanation for this could there be? Clearly Grandi’s claim that some Canadian professor had raised UNRWA and UNHCR donations in class by dressing as a pirate are far too outlandish to be true.
Children Playing, Women Running, and Other Examples of Moral Turpitude
Under Grandi’s leadership, UNRWA has been in the forefront of those promoting the moral decline of human civilization. The Agency has, for example, organized summer camps for Gaza children, so that they might—and this is almost too horrible to contemplate—play and have fun, despite the many difficulties of life in Gaza. Quite rightly, some militant Islamists condemned this. UNRWA has organized marathons in which some women—shock, horror—were permitted to compete (thank goodness Hamas put an end to that dubious exercise).
The Agency has also pushed forward with introducing a human rights curriculum, no doubt as part of an evil effort to create an army of free-thinking Palestinian youth with an expanded knowledge of human rights in the modern world.
Cult of Personality
Not content with being head of one of the UN’s largest humanitarian agencies, Grandi’s mad lust for power led him to promote a bizarre cult of personality in which he would be known as the “Supreme Chef.” Only quick action by his staff apparently stopped the distribution of official UNRWA aprons bearing the likeness of a smiling “Supreme Chef” to all Agency personnel!
* * *
And so, as the Commissioner-General leaves UNRWA—doubtless to engage in other “worthwhile” activities somewhere else in the world—we at PRRN have a stark warning: Don’t be taken in by his good nature, hard work, or commitment to human rights and humanitarianism. This man is dangerous… and we’ll be watching.
Registration information here.
Women in conflict zones face a wide range of violence: from physical and psychological trauma to political, economic and social disadvantage. And the sources of the violence are varied also: from the ‘public’ violence of the enemy to the more ‘private’ violence of the family. Maria Holt uses her research gathered in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and in the West Bank to look at the forms of violence suffered by women in the context of the wider conflict around them. Drawing on first-hand accounts of women who have either participated in, been victims of or bystanders to violence, Women and Conflict in the Middle East highlights the complex situation of these refugees, and explores how many of them become involved in resistance activities. It thus makes essential reading for students of the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as those interested in the gender dimension of conflict.
Maria Holt is Senior Lecturer in the Democracy and Islam Programme, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster. She is the co-author of Without Glory in Arabia: The British Retreat from Aden (I.B.Tauris).
For a 30% discount on the book until 30 May 2014, download the flyer here.
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, microfinance and emergency assistance. UNRWA is the largest UN operation in the Middle East with more than 30,000 staff. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
Human Development Researcher (Consultant)
UNRWA is currently developing a Medium Term Strategy for the period 2016–2021. As part of this process, the Agency will conduct a study on the human development needs of Palestine refugees in its five fields of operations. The study will identify gaps in the human development fabric that should be addressed – whether by UNRWA or by other actors – in order to make a meaningful contribution to improving human development indicators that are considered to be lagging by reference to the regional context. Such a study will not only be a valuable input to UNRWA in defining its overall organizational strategy and planning for each field of operation, but should also serve as an advocacy tool in highlighting the human development needs of one of the largest refugee populations in the world, whose refugee condition has lasted for more than 60 years.
The study will: (i) apply the same conceptual framework and methodologies used to measure human development of countries, including those that host Palestine refugees; (ii) establish measures and associated baselines against which to periodically monitor progress; and (iii) identify gaps between the status of Palestine refugees’ human development and relative comparators.
DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
UNRWA will require an experienced researcher who will also act as a project manager to produce the human development study. In producing the study, the researcher will provide technical expertise, ensuring a high quality output, accuracy and consistency of data analysis.
The expected output is the inaugural Palestine Refugee Human Development Study. The study will analyze the human development condition of Palestine refugees by reference to standard human development indicators and indices including, but not limited to: Human Development Index (HDI), Inequality-adjusted HDI, Multidimensional Poverty Index, Gender Inequality Index, and other key impact indicators. The indicators would, to the extent possible and relevant, be disaggregated by: (i) gender, (ii) location of residence (camp/non-camp/rural/urban), (iii) age (stage in the life-cycle), (iv) field of registration; (v) socio-economic status; and (vi) disability. The study should identify statistical gaps that cannot be filled within the time available to conduct the study and what would be required to fill those gaps in the years ahead.
Description of Duties
- Collect and analyze existing relevant data, engaging with national/regional research institutes, eminent researchers and academics;
- Facilitate partnerships with key partners, such as the World Bank and UNDP researchers, in producing the study;
- Work with internal and external partners to define the methodological and conceptual approach, as well as the final structure of the study;
- Coordinate reviews and consultations with relevant stakeholders, particularly on sensitive topics;
- Ensure that gender differentials are analyzed throughout the report, giving special consideration to policy recommendations that promote equity in access and outcome;
- Draft and edit the study, ensuring consistency of data, logical linkages, and coherence of conclusions and recommendations;
- Prepare a statistical annex with data tables and a methodological note.
ESSENTIAL QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE
- Advanced university degree from an accredited educational institution (minimum Master degree, preferably PhD) in political science, social sciences, public policy or other relevant subject;
- At least ten years of progressively responsible relevant professional experience in academia or research institutions, with a focus on socio-economic analysis, experience with gender analysis and the development of composite indices, and social impact assessment;
- Proven experience of managing research projects;
- Understanding of the political context and situation of Palestine refugees in UNRWA fields;
- Excellent command of written and spoken English.
- Fluency in written and spoken Arabic.
- Advanced understanding and proven application of qualitative and quantitative research methods;
- High level analytical, statistical and IT skills;
- Ability to be creative in conceptualizing and analyzing problems to identify key issues, problem solving and decision making;
- Excellent writing skills;
- Ability to establish and maintain effective working relations in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity;
- Strong organizational skills, ability to meet deadlines and to manage multiple tasks effectively and efficiently;
- Committed to human development principles and values.
Supervision and reporting
- The Human Development Researcher will report to the Senior M&E Officer of the Department of Planning and work closely with the Director, Department of Planning.
CONDITIONS OF SERVICE
- The duration of this assignment will be approximately 8-12 calendar months.
- Remuneration for this consultancy will depend on the qualifications and experience of the expert.
Applicants should submit a cover letter and CV or UN Personal History Form demonstrating clearly the knowledge and experience required to meet the consultancy requirements via email@example.com, clearly indicating the title of this consultancy “Human Development Researcher” in the subject line of the message. The deadline for the submission of applications is 7 February 2014 (late applications will not be considered).
UNRWA is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from both qualified and experienced women and men. UNRWA encourages applications from female candidates. Only those applicants short-listed for interview will be contacted. UNRWA is a non-smoking work environment.
BEIRUT, Lebanon, 6 January 2014 – Aya carefully sweeps the floor of the dimly lit room where she, her four siblings and her parents have lived since they arrived in Lebanon from the Syrian Arab Republic.
“I feel pain,” says Aya softly. “My parents are tired and have nothing.”
Despite her constant worry for her parents, 10-year-olf Aya has managed to keep her spirits. Her natural smile and sparkling eyes brighten up the somber room as if to match the glittery reflections of the sequins on her shirt.
Aya’s parents say their children have been out of school for two years now. In Lebanon, they can’t afford to send them to school, as the family barely makes enough to pay rent.
Aya is one of about 51,000 Palestinians who have fled the Syrian Arab Republic into Lebanon, according to figures from November 2013. More than half are sheltering in the 12 already overcrowded and impoverished Palestinian refugee camps, some of which have existed since 1948. Living conditions are extremely difficult: houses are damp and unventilated, streets are narrow, and the sewage systems flood regularly in winter.
Prior to the Syrian conflict, Lebanon, a country of around 4.2 million, hosted some 260,000 registered Palestinian refugees. The influx of Palestinians from Syria has strained the already limited resources, weak infrastructure and overstretched services available in these existing Palestinian camps.
Aya remembers when she used to have her own separate room, which had toys and even a computer. Here in Lebanon, she passes time alone in front of the family’s rented room, bouncing a ball….
Full report from UNICEF here.