Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) shared with Agency partners the results of its review of a recently released report by IMPACT-se alleging UNRWA knowingly utilizes educational materials outside of UN values. The Agency review concluded that the self-learning materials cited in the report are not authorized for use in UNRWA schools.
The UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth informed Agency partners that the report demonstrates the effectiveness of the Agency’s educational programming, particularly the Agency’s cutting-edge Digital Learning Platform (DLP).
Launched in 2021, the DLP is an online learning platform where, following a three-step vetting process, UNRWA teaching materials are posted for student and parental use. The platform, available to the public, posted over 2,600 supplemental learning materials for use in Gaza alone during the previous school year.
Stenseth highlighted that none of the cases cited in the report by IMPACT-se was drawn from the UNRWA online learning platform.
IMPACT-se is an organization already well known for its previous sensationalized attempts to delegitimize the Agency’s work. Stenseth reminded partners that this organization’s latest report was consistent with its other sensationalized work, characterized in a robust 2021 academic review undertaken by the Georg Eckart Institute on behalf of the European Commission as “marked by generalizing and exaggerated conclusions based on methodological shortcomings.” In this instance, the group attempted to explain the lack of examples drawn from the UNRWA Digital Learning Platform by observing a paucity of material on the site – a normal occurrence as materials are only available during the lifecycle of their need for students. As UNRWA schools are currently closed for the summer, no material is uploaded on the Agency’s learning platform.
In reviewing the material referenced in the report though, UNRWA discovered the existence of a private, commercial website that illegally utilizes the Agency’s logo and the names of UNRWA educators. The Agency is seeking additional information on these sites for follow-up action, including possible legal referral. Stenseth expressed hope the report’s authors will fully disclose the web addresses of the sites it uncovered.
Stenseth emphasized the unwavering commitment of UNRWA to educating Palestine refugee children along the UN principles and values and zero tolerance of hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence: “Others talk, UNRWA delivers. Our education system is acknowledged as the model for effective refugee education, delivering quality and cost-efficient education. Reports like these, premised upon smoke and mirrors – obfuscation, not truth – are indicative of an organization trying to garner attention for itself, rather than advancing the cause of refugee education.”
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability, and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs.
As a result, the UNRWA program budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s program budget. UNRWA emergency programs and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.
Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years. UNRWA helps them achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief, social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.