UNRWA and the Refugees: A Difficult but Lasting Marriage
By Jalal Al Husseini
Over the last sixty years, UNRWA’s relationship to the Palestinian refugees it serves has undergone profound changes. Faced with the difficult task of adapting a humanitarian regime to a highly politicized environment, the agency has had to thread its way through the diverse and sometimes conflicting expectations of the international donor states, the Arab host countries, and the refugees themselves, who from the start were deeply suspicious of UNRWA’s mandate as inimical to the right of return. Against this background, the article traces the evolution of the agency’s role from service and relief provider to virtual mouthpiece for the refugees on the international stage and, on an administrative level, from a disciplinary regime to emphasis on community participation and finally to the embrace of a developmental agenda. Although UNRWA’s presence, originally seen as temporary, seems likely to endure, the article argues that financial and political constraints are likely to thwart its new agenda.
(In)Security and Reconstruction in Post-conflict Nahr al-Barid Refugee Camp
By Ismael Sheikh Hassan and Sari Hanafi
This article examines the intersection of the Lebanese state’s post-conflict security policy in Nahr al-Barid refugee camp and the reconstruction of the camp, which was destroyed in a battle between the Lebanese army and the militant group Fatah al-Islam. The significance of the government’s security focus derives from its intention to make Nahr al-Barid a “model” for all the other camps in the country. After discussing the Lebanese security context, the characteristics of the pre-conflict camp, the arrival of Fatah al-Islam, and the ensuing battle, the authors focus on the urban planning process for a reconstructed Nahr al-Barid, highlighting both the state’s militarization of the process and the local grassroots planning initiative which, in partnership with UNRWA, managed to secure some concessions. Also analyzed is the government plan submitted to donors, which conceives of “governance” as community policing without addressing the status of the Palestinians in Lebanon.
In the Ruins of Nahr al-Barid: Understanding the Meaning of the Camp
By Adam Ramadan
The destruction of Nahr al-Barid camp in Lebanon in 2007 was a disaster for the 35,000 people for whom it had become home. To understand what was lost, this article explores what the refugee camp is and what it does, materially and imaginatively, for its residents. Drawing on the words of ordinary Palestinians from Nahr al-Barid and Rashidiyya camps, it describes how the camps are social, cultural, and political refuges from marginalization in exile. While the camps draw meaning from a particular Palestinian time-space that emphasizes displacement and transience, they have also become meaningful places in themselves. Consequently, the loss of Nahr al-Barid and the displacement of its society have been understood as a repetition of the foundational experience of the modern Palestinian nation: the Nakba.
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