UNRWA and the Palestinian Refugee Camps

Date/Time: 27/05/2014  10:00 - 12:00

Location: NUPI

The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), in cooperation with Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) and the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS), have the pleasure of inviting you to the seminar:

“UNRWA and the Palestinian refugee camps: When humanitarian assistance becomes a permanent solution”

In 1949, the newly formed United Nations decided to create two agencies dealing with what they saw as two different refugee situations. In response to the refugee crisis in the wake of World War II, the UN established the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in response to the refugee situation following the 1948 war between the newly established state of Israel and the neighboring Arab states.  The UN estimated that 750 000 Palestinians lost their homes and became refugees as a result of this. As an important response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, UNRWA organized a number of refugee camps, which also became the main localities for the Agency’s welfare service provision within health, social work and education. In the absence of a political solution, these camps developed into semi-permanent settlements imbued with politically symbolic power. The politization of the camps became a challenge for the humanitarian agency propagating neutrality.

Through a focus on UNRWA and the refugee camps, the presentations in this seminar will explore some of the dilemmas that arise when temporary humanitarian assistance persists over several decades, in the context of a precarious political situation. Based on unique access to UNRWA archives, the historian Kjersti G.Berg (University of Bergen) will give an overview of UNRWA’s humanitarian and pragmatic approaches to the refugee camps, whilst the Social Anthropologist Berit Angelskår (University of Bergen) shifts the focus to the refugees’ perspective and their cultural construction of camps as a political symbol, based on her fieldwork.



  • UNRWA’s humanitarian and pragmatic approaches to the refugee camps
    Kjersti G.Berg,  University of Bergen
  • The refugees’ perspective and their cultural construction of camps as a political symbol
    Berit Angelskår , University of Bergen
  • Comments
    Pål Nesse , senior advisor, Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Questions and Answers

Chair: Jon Harald Sande Lie , senior researcher, NUPI


Sign up for the seminar here.

Loading Map....