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The ABCs of the UNRWA’s Institutional Mind

During the visit of the UNRWA Commissioner-General and his meeting with the Palestinian institutions or those operating in the Palestinian sector, the head of the Administrative Board of the Social Cultural Nashet Association presented an intervention that focused on the lack of professionalism of UNRWA in terms of thinking, planning, and then implementation in dealing with the crisis and its repercussions. This led to weakening its impact and presence so that Palestinian institutions have preceded their speed in dealing with the crisis. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not feel that there has been any change in the way of UNRWA’s work or its services, and perhaps many examples can be mentioned indicating the absence of UNRWA.

Given the importance of the intervention, in that it directly criticized the Director-General of UNRWA in Lebanon and his role in not activating exceptional dynamics to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and its socio-economic repercussions, and in an institutionalized manner that pays attention to the size of the problem and employs the appropriate capabilities for it, for the importance of this we see the need to review the following observations:

First: The analysis of the crisis by UNRWA and its repercussions on Palestinian society:

Any new event or emergency identified as an unusual or expected event, and classified in the disaster circle, requires a thorough and comprehensive analysis of its direct and indirect effects, especially those affecting the community in the medium and long term. We did not see any clear and comprehensive scientific analysis based on field studies and statistics in this context. If UNRWA refutes this opinion or claims that it worked on conducting studies, then these studies or statistics in the event they were found remained in UNRWA’s drawers.

Second: On defining the objectives concerning the exceptionalism of the stage:

The set goals before the crisis are no longer valid because there is a crisis of the type of catastrophe. Therefore it was necessary to define the goals that deal with the repercussions to confront them and protect the Palestinian society from its damages, with minimum goals leading to plans that lead to minimum losses.

Third: On building a plan to confront the crisis by UNRWA in dealing with its repercussions:

Except for restructuring the work system and internal prevention measures according to the salaries of general mobilization and closure, in addition to distance education procedures, and the creation of inactive quarantine centers, not to mention the one-time financial assistance provided to Palestinian families, UNRWA did not provide any plan to deal with the immediate and future repercussions, whether the matter is in the immediate or medium term.

Fourth: On institutionalizing the process of cooperation and coordination between all actors:

UNRWA was and still is required, and by virtue of its international dimension and institutional capabilities, to work on institutional framing the process of cooperation and coordination between the state, UNRWA, and the Palestinian frameworks on the one hand, and between UNRWA and Palestinian actors on the other hand. The periodic meetings that take place from above, and the data issued by these meetings, are insufficient unless they are accompanied by defining the direct and medium-term program, with a plan of action and a program of tasks. Coordination is done based on allocating responsibilities and bearing burdens.

Last but not least, UNRWA was required from the first days of the crisis to foresee the coming days and months and what they will bear, and to respond on an apparent basis (analyzing the reality, assessing the situation, determining what we want, how to reach what we want), and work to mobilize resources and efforts. Also, activate a high degree of coordination within emergency health, social, economic, and educational plans, but they did not do so. Accordingly, it was necessary to develop the theory that says that the problem is UNRWA, specifically that it is managed by the person of its director-general (you do not know or do not want to know, or know and you don’t want to act).

The preceding must be read from the angle of good thinking, not from the angle of desire to criticize UNRWA, and the opposite is quite true. Everyone undertakes many tasks; foremost among them is UNRWA as a mandated international organization, and that there are many possibilities for action to come out, at least with minimal losses.

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