Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“UNRWA TV” has published an interview with UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell. She focuses most of her comments on the Agency’s growing funding crisis. UNRWA currently has a deficit of $101 million, and has had to take a variety of emergency austerity measures—including service cuts and a possible postponement of the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Mitchell was appointed as Deputy Commissioner-General in December 2014. Mitchell previously served as Vice-President of International Programs of the International Rescue Committee, and previously worked at UNRWA from 2011 to 2013 as Director of Operations (Jordan) and Chief of Staff.

1433642901008RAND recently released a major study on the The Costs of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which explores the cost and benefits of several possible outcomes to the conflict:

For much of the past century, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been a defining feature of the Middle East. Despite billions of dollars expended to support, oppose, or seek to resolve it, the conflict has endured for decades, with periodic violent eruptions, of which the Israel-Gaza confrontation in the summer of 2014 is only the most recent.

This study estimates the net costs and benefits over the next ten years of five alternative trajectories — a two-state solution, coordinated unilateral withdrawal, uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal, nonviolent resistance, and violent uprising — compared with the costs and benefits of a continuing impasse that evolves in accordance with present trends. The analysis focuses on economic costs related to the conflict, including the economic costs of security. In addition, intangible costs are briefly examined, and the costs of each scenario to the international community have been calculated.

The study’s focus emerged from an extensive scoping exercise designed to identify how RAND’s objective, fact-based approach might promote fruitful policy discussion. The overarching goal is to give all parties comprehensive, reliable information about available choices and their expected costs and consequences.

Seven key findings were identified: A two-state solution provides by far the best economic outcomes for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis would gain over three times more than the Palestinians in absolute terms — $123 billion versus $50 billion over ten years. But the Palestinians would gain more proportionately, with average per capita income increasing by approximately 36 percent over what it would have been in 2024, versus 5 percent for the average Israeli. A return to violence would have profoundly negative economic consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis; per capita gross domestic product would fall by 46 percent in the West Bank and Gaza and by 10 percent in Israel by 2024. In most scenarios, the value of economic opportunities gained or lost by both parties is much larger than expected changes in direct costs. Unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank would impose large economic costs on Israelis unless the international community shoulders a substantial portion of the costs of relocating settlers. Intangible factors, such as each party’s security and sovereignty aspirations, are critical considerations in understanding and resolving the impasse. Taking advantage of the economic opportunities of a two-state solution would require substantial investments from the public and private sectors of the international community and from both parties.

The project also has put together an online costs-calculator, which allows a user to modify economic assumptions used in the study and see how these affect the result.

What does the study have to say about the refugee issue, especially with regard to the two state outcome?

Under the two-state solution, we assume that 600,000 Palestinian refugees will return from abroad to the newly formed Palestinian state. Estimates of the number who are likely to return vary significantly, and we select 600,000—equivalent to an approximate 10-percent increase in the size of the population of the Palestinian state— as an “average” value. (p. 75)

Second, we assume that the international community will provide financial support to repatriate the refugees in a two-state solution. Specifically, we assume that the international community will provide sufficient public and private capital investment so that any influx of labor will not lower per capita GDP. (p. 99)

We also assume that the return of refugees would not reduce the per capita GDP of the Palestinian economy. Thus, the 10-percent expansion in the population (600,000 refugees) will be accompanied by a 10-percent expansion in the size of the entire economy, or roughly $2.7 billion. This will require an estimated $9 billion in additional public and private investment. (p. 113)

 We also anticipate that humanitarian assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [sic] will continue. (p. 143)

In my view the RAND study overestimates the amount of international financial assistance that would be forthcoming to support an agreement. It likely underestimates the challenges of refugee repatriation and absorption.

Moreover, the study also assumes that no compensation/reparation payments are made by Israel to refugees, although the payment of some compensation has long been both a Palestinian demand and an assumption of the international community. Previous Israeli governments have accepted the idea of refugee compensation in principle, although it is not clear that is still the case.

Given that estimates of compensation run from $2-3 billion to a Palestinian demand of $200+ billion, the absence of this from the study’s calculations is a significant omission. Moreover, many donors have signalled that they expect much or most of this ought to be paid by Israel, not the international community. Clearly it could factor as a significant expense for Israel, and a significant financial plus for the Palestinians.

In his opening statement to the UNRWA Advisory Commission (currently meeting in Jordan), UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl highlighted the severe challenges facing both the Agency and Palestinian refugees:

…At our last meeting, I described the situation of Palestine refugee communities as unsustainable. Since then, the trends have become even bleaker. The pressures on Palestinians and Palestine refugees are immense and the threats to their lives, livelihoods or future are of such magnitude that hope is needed somewhere on the horizon. Hope – in this most unstable region – can only and must be brought about by resolute political action.

Half way through its seventh decade of existence and action, UNRWA is an illustration of what can and in many ways has been achieved for Palestine Refugees over this period but we are also a living reminder of what happens when no political solutions are found to address the underlying causes of an historic injustice.

Throughout my statement you will hear confirmation – if it was needed – of UNRWA’s profound commitment to serving the Palestine refugee communities today and in the future, consistent with the mandate, role, and responsibilities we have been given by the international community, specifically the UN General Assembly. You will also hear that we find impossible, year after year, to accept the failure to resolve the fundamental issues of occupation, blockade and conflicts that affect Palestine refugees so severely.

I call here for determined and structured political leadership by the international community in this regard. I do so because we are among the best placed to daily observe and highlight the human consequences and costs of the ongoing denial of dignity and rights of Palestine refugees. In that context, I am convinced that it is our responsibility both to provide services to the refugees and to advocate for an end to this intolerable reality….

You can read the full statement here.

WBreportcoverLast month the World Bank released a report on the performance of UNRWA education programmes in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan. The study’s findings suggested that the Agency was significantly outperforming the local public education systems in these areas (emphasis added):

Executive Summary

Palestine refugees are achieving higher-than-average learning outcomes in spite of the adverse circumstances they live under. Their education system—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—operates one of the largest non-governmental school systems in the Middle East. It manages nearly 700 schools, has hired 17,000 staff, educates more than 500,000 refugee students each year, and operates in five areas, including the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Contrary to what might be expected from a resource-constrained administration serving refugee students who continually face a multitude of adversities, UNRWA students outperform public schools in the three regions—the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan—by a year’s worth of learning.

This study uses a mixed methods research approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research to address the complexity of the research question and its exploratory nature, namely how do UNRWA schools continually and consistently outperform public schools? This study was prepared using the following tools, techniques, and data collection:

  • Econometric techniques were used to analyze learning achievement data, including international (TIMSS and PISA) and national student assessment data.
  • The Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) tools and rubrics were used to assess different system components, such as teacher effectiveness, school autonomy, and student assessments.
  • Stallings classroom observations provided a structured method to compare teachers’ and students’ interactions.

Qualitative data collected through interviews captured the lived experiences of a sample of UNRWA students.

These tools were applied through a concurrent research process (Figure 1), constituted through a mixed methods research design that led to integrated findings.

It is important to recognize the methodological and practical limitations of this study to establish its relevance to other education systems and contexts of adversity. The UNRWA system covers five regions, of which this study examines three: West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan. Thus, the findings represent factors that appear to be working within a system, but they do not imply that the system as a whole is achieving positive results. That would require additional data collection and analysis for Lebanon and Syria. Nor do the findings attempt to negate or discount the incidence of falling standards in UNRWA schools in recent years. Moreover, the international assessment data point to UNRWA’s performance in relation to the public system in some of the host countries. But the data do not cover the inputs and processes in public school systems, which may differ from those in UNRWA schools, so they cannot be used to pass judgment on what these public systems may face.

WBUNRWAFigure8

When one controls for the lower socio-economic status of refugees, the results are quite striking—equivalent to one full year of additional schooling. Moreover, these results have been achieved at a lower cost per pupil.

The report identifies several reasons for this impressive performance:

This is achieved as a result of the way these schools recruit, prepare, and support teachers; because of instructional practices and pedagogy in the classroom; and because of school leadership, accountability, and mutual support. This has created a distinguished learning community centered on the student. Of note:

  • UNRWA selects, prepares, and supports its education staff to pursue high learning outcomes.
  • Time-on-task is high in UNRWA schools, and this time is used more effectively than in public schools.
  • UNRWA schools have a world-class assessment and accountability system.
  • UNRWA schools are part of a wider community and culture of learning that supports the child and ensures that the education received is meaningful and relevant.

The report also notes some narrowing of the performance gap in recent years. While it doesn’t assess the reasons for this, it seems likely that it is a product of both improvement in national educational systems and the Agency’s continuing budgetary crisis.

Previous TIMSS studies have shown the Jordanian and Palestian education systems to be at or slightly above the average for Arab countries. Many countries in the Middle East typically score relatively poorly on standardized international tests of math and science knowledge, in large part because of poor teacher training, outmoded teaching techniques and curriculum, and poor management.

The International Journal of Migration and Border Studies (IJMBS) is pleased to announce a call for papers for its third issue in 2015.

scoverijmbsIJMBS aims to bring together a diverse range of scholars and practitioners to advance knowledge and improve practice and methodologies in a broad range of issued related to migration and borders studies. Broadly speaking, it seeks to provide different perspectives to its readership ranging from exclusion to integration of permanent, temporary and irregular migrants as well as asylum seekers. Articles covering a large spectrum of topics addressing the development of international, transnational and national immigration policies viewed in a broad sense are welcome. What could be the best practices regarding inclusion? Which measures have exclusionary effects? Some examples of themes this journal intends to cover are listed below.

Subject Coverage

Broad themes on which articles are sought include but are not limited to:

  • Innovations in institutional, procedural and social arrangements to deal with border security and immigration policy
  • Personal information databases and exchanges
  • Measures to restrict access to asylum
  • The coherence and coordination between various actors dealing with issues such as health, education, social welfare, employment and law enforcement in the migration context
  • Causes and consequences (economic, social, political, environmental, etc.) of migration and their legal and policy implications
  • Local, regional and international mechanisms and logics that transform political and media discourses norms, policies and practices related to migration and border studies
  • Development of new priorities for immigration programmes
  • The role of gender, age, social status, ability, race and other factors in curtailing border and immigration policies
  • Indigenous rights and claims and border and migration studies

IJMBS is a peer-reviewed journal which offers a forum for disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research concerning conceptual, theoretical, empirical and methodological dimensions related to key concepts that underpin them: borders, immigration and integration policies, humanitarianism, sovereignty, states, citizenship, etc. Such critical analysis contributes to a better understanding of current challenges from different disciplinary perspectives including law, sociology, anthropology, social policy and social welfare, criminology, political economy, political science and public politics.

The journal invites submissions from both emerging and established scholars, including graduate students, post- graduates, professors and practitioners from around the globe, with the objective of ensuring that a plurality of experiences and perspectives is represented.

Notes for Prospective Authors

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. (N.B. Conference papers may only be submitted if the paper has been completely re-written and if appropriate written permissions have been obtained from any copyright holders of the original paper).

All papers are refereed through a peer review process.

All papers must be submitted online. Please read our information on preparing and submitting articles.

Important Date

Submission deadline: 31st January, 2015

Campus in Camps

Posted: July 2, 2012 by Rex Brynen in Uncategorized
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According to its website, Campus in Camps is:

…an experimental educational program that aims at transgressing, without eliminating, the distinction between camp and city, refugee and citizen, center and periphery, theory and practice, teacher and student. Every year Campus in Camps brings together fifteen participants from the West Bank’s refugee camps in an attempt to explore and produce a new form of representation of camps and refugees beyond the static and traditional symbols of victimization, passivity and poverty. This initiative stems from the recognition that refugee camps in the West Bank are in a process of a historical political, social and spatial transformation. Despite adverse political and social conditions Palestinian refugee camps have developed a relatively autonomous and independent social and political space: no longer a simple recipient of humanitarian intervention but rather as an active political subject. The camp becomes a site of social invention and suggests new political and spatial configurations. The refugee camp is transformed from a marginalized urban area to a center of social and political life. More notable is that such radical transformations have not normalized the political condition of being exiled. For decades, the effects of the political discourse around the right of return, such as the rise of a resolute imperative to stagnate living circumstances in refugee camps in order to reaffirm the temporariness of the camps, forced many refugees to live in terrible conditions. What emerges today is a reconsideration of this imperative where refugees are re-inventing social and political practices that improve their everyday life without normalizing the political exceptional condition of the camp itself. After sixty years of exile, the camps are now viewed as the village of origin: a cultural and social product to preserve and remember. What is at stake in this program is the possibility for the participants to realize interventions in camps without normalizing their conditions or simply blending the camp with the rest of the city. Campus in Camps aims at providing a protected context in which to accompany and reinforce such complex and crucial changes in social practices and representations. We believe that the future of the refugee camps and their associated spatial, social and political regime force us to re-think the very idea of the city as a space of political representation through the consideration of the camp as a counter-laboratory for new spatial and social practices.

While I’m none too fond of the unnecessarily dense jargon (which only acts as a barrier), the project is nonetheless an interesting one whereby selected young Palestinians are engaged in a process of dialogue, learning, and discussion. You’ll find You Tube videos of some of their discussions here, with sample ones presented below.

Wikileaks and the Palestinian refugee issue

Posted: September 3, 2011 by Rex Brynen in Uncategorized
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As has been widely reported in recent days, Wikileak’s entire archive of 251,287 US diplomatic cables has been made public due to sloppy data security both by Wikileaks and the Guardian newspaper. Whereas previously both Wikileaks and media outlets had redacted many names in the cables to protect third parties, the new release contains no such redactions.

I’ll admit to being among those who thinks that democratically-elected governments have a perfect right to classify diplomatic communications, and that dumping a quarter of a million legally-classified, illegally-obtained documents into the public domain isn’t really a public service. That being said, they’re all out there now, and I mention the fact because there are quite a few items of interest to researchers on the Palestinian refugee issue. Indeed, a quick search of the archive reveals:

So far I’ve seen nothing terribly surprising, although there a few tidbits here and there that add to what is already known about certain issues. There is, for example, material on Palestinian refugees in or fleeing Iraq; a reference to the scope of US military assistance to the LAF during the 2007 fighting at Nahr al-Barid (no less than 22 C-17s with military supplies); information on reconstruction at Nahr al-Barid (and on the question of an ISF police station in the camp); and some insight into UNRWA donor politics.

In any case, let’s try crowd-sourcing this: try searching Wikileaks, and if you come across a memo that you think is significant post the details and a link in the comments here on the PRRN blog. We’ll feature anything that is especially interesting or revealing.