Rethinking Refugee Aid: A Path to Middle East Peace
20 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2008
Date Written: June, 24 2008
This essay asserts that the structure of international aid to the Palestinian refugees, perpetuated since the origin of the refugee problem, should be reconceived and a new formulation created, and it argues that a new approach the refugee problem can have positive significance for the broader problem of peace in the Middle East.
The essay identifies UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency) as a contributor to the permanency of the refugee problem and its exacerbation, in that its presence has allowed host state governmental authorities to minimize their duty to address the needs of Palestinian refugees, while enabling these authorities to exercise full control over the life of the refugees and to erect the specific and debilitating constraints under which UNRWA struggles to operate.
The essay proposes a restructuring (to be promoted by the United States and its allies, and administered under a new international trustee) that would convert refugee camps to self-sustaining communities. Political constraints imposed by official and unofficial opposition to any change suggesting integration or resettlement could be overcome by creating a community development program that would be attractive enough for refugees to adopt as their own (thus enlisting the individual refugee's motivation to improve his family's standard of living), and that would not require as a precondition that refugees abandon their political claims. By reducing the distress, frustration, and sense of injustice of the people at the heart of the conflict, the new program could reduce the level of tension, reduce insecurities, and improve the atmosphere and conditions for political resolution. It could also serve to resurrect the alternative of compensation - the relatively unexplored and only viable alternative presented by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.
Keywords: Palestinian refugees, humanitarian law, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Middle East conflict
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