Saturday, October 22, 2011

Resettlement, Not Settlement

Kenneth Bandler, I have discovered, beat me to it. I had an idea but in researching, I found he had published an article in the Miami Herald: UNRWA: Time to start planning for resettlement last year in which he suggested

shouldn't UNRWA -- the United Nations Relief and Works Agency -- start planning to evolve from a refugee support agency to one devoted to resettlement?

As he noted,

UNRWA is the only international refugee agency dedicated to exclusively benefit one population group, the Palestinians. All other refugees worldwide are covered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which not only provides sustenance but, importantly, also strives to resettle them, to ensure that their refugee status is not a permanent condition.

UNRWA's mandate, it would appear, does not call for resettlement.

A David Project paper points this out, although the date for the change is unclear in their document:

General Assembly resolutions funding UNRWA dropped resettlement and rehabilitation as goals and emphasized repatriation and compensation exclusively, using the term “inalienable right of return.”

A 1951 UN document notes:

At the present time UNRWA, in accordance with its terms of reference, is carrying out studies with a view to determining the cost of resettling the refugees

...The cost of resettling a peasant would be very different according to whether he were settled on state domain land in Jordan, in the Ghor, or on land to be reclaimed in the swampy area of the Gharb-orontes in Syria.

...When the time comes to pay compensation, it is to be hoped that a large number of the refugees will already have been resettled by UNRWA.

Elliot Green informs me that

"The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was an international relief agency...Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations in 1945, was especially active in 1945 and 1946, and largely shut down operations in 1947."

He found a booklet called "Britain and the United Nations" [1964 Brit Info Services], wherein appears this:

"The work done by UNRRA on behalf of refugees was taken over by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which began operations in July 1947. By the time it was wound up in January 1952, IRO had helped over 1.6 million people, of whom 1,039,000 had been resettled and 73,000 returned to their homelands."

It should be known that the UNRWA's biggest donors are the USA (in 2009, its total contribution was around US$268 million), followed by the European Commission (US$232.7 million).

David Bedein has done, together with Arlene Kushner, great work on investigating UNRWA and promoting its reform and more. For example, consider this statement at the FAQ section of UNRWA's website:

Does UNRWA only provide services to Palestine refugees?

No. For example, the Agency also provides services to refugees and people displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967 and subsequent hostilities.

I would presume this is perhaps referring to Lebanese, Jordanian or Syrian nationals but since this is all bound up with the question of Palestine, the statement is mischievously nocuous.

Getting back to resettlement, the original decision of the UN General Assembly 194 (III) of December 1948, reads:

...11. ...Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;

There is more than one solution to the problem of Arab refugees.

Resettlement is for sure one of them.


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