EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: International political changes and genuine refugee crises have prompted a renewed examination of UNRWA, the internationally funded mechanism for the Palestinians. The problem of transferring UNRWA’s health, welfare, and education responsibilities to other organizations is not easily resolved. Despite obvious problems (primarily the inevitable corruption), absorbing UNRWA into the PA is the least bad alternative, as it offers a path for both capacity-building and real oversight.
UNRWA, the internationally funded “refugee” organization for the Palestinians, is the subject of new scrutiny. Changes are badly needed for several pressing reasons: to reallocate international resources to genuine refugee crises; to advance the cause of a Palestinian state; to remove a ponderous, destructive, and expensive anomaly from the international system; and to improve the chances of peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
Three possibilities present themselves with regard to the future of UNRWA. First, its responsibilities can be shifted to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Second, they can be taken on by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Third, UNRWA can be kept intact.