UNRWA Seeks to Jump-start Middle East Peace with Development Efforts

    Children attend a class in an elementary school supported by U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. The UNRWA believes that peace starts with education among other things. Photo by: Suhair Karam / IRIN

    Establishing and nurturing peace in the Middle East starts with supporting the region’s development, a senior director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East shares.

    “UNRWA has a simple, but highly complex response; a response grounded in our work for over six decades, with and for some of the most marginalized communities in the world’s most troubled region,” Chris Gunness writes in an opinion piece published in the Guardian. “For us, peace starts with human development, in its many manifestations.”

    UNRWA, he explains, believes that peace starts with education, health, prosperity, opportunity, the protection of human rights and assistance to the most socially marginalized and disadvantaged populations. Gunness adds that the provision of these services to people in the Middle East, particularly the more than 4.8 million Palestinian refugees the organization serves, is central to UNRWA’s work.

    This commitment to building peace through development is reflected in the organization’s slogan “Peace Starts Here,” Gunness writes. UNRWA’s message is a source of hope, he says.

    “Not only can peace start here, but it does start here, it has already started here, through the work of humanitarian actors like UNRWA. It gives those on whose shoulders will rest the task of delivering peace a solid basis on which to begin that onerous task,” Gunness writes. “It gives to the next generation a sense of who they are, of what they can achieve and it empowers them through education and opportunity to believe in a prosperous, dignified, stable and peaceful future, a future in which they and their children can attain their full potential as human beings.”

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.