UNRWA Photo Exhibit Commemorates 50 Years

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) commemorated 50 years of work in the field assisting the Palestine refugees with the opening of a photo exhibition on 8 May 2000 at the Visitor’s Lobby of the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York.  The exhibit opening was inaugurated by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and was attended by many U.N. officials and representatives of Member States, including the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Mr. Peter Hansen, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, and Mr. William Lee, Chief of the UNRWA Liaison Office in N.Y.

The event, however, was not celebratory, but rather was a quiet and dignified commemoration of UNRWA’s 50th anniversary, in recognition of the Agency’s dedicated efforts for a half-century, since its establishment in May 1950, on behalf of the Palestine refugees in the fields of education, healthcare, relief and social services. Indeed, the event marked 50 years of U.N. involvement in the world’s longest-standing refugee problem by the only U.N. agency devoted specifically to one refugee population.  The Palestine refugees now registered with the Agency total 3.7 million persons in UNRWA’s five fields of operations, namely Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. 

The historical images and poignant photographs, which were specially commissioned for the occasion and were taken by Ms. Mia Grondahl, in the exhibition portray the different challenges and difficult living conditions and hardships that have been encountered by the Palestine refugees in their daily lives since their dispossession and dispersal. Other photographs document some of the accomplishments the refugees have been able to attain, particularly in terms of education, health and employment, over the decades with the ongoing and essential help of UNRWA.  In addition to the photographs, the exhibit included 5 beautiful handmade quilts that were made collectively by refugee children and women in each of UNRWA’s 5 fields of operations.

The UNRWA exhibit was on display at the U.N. until the end of May.  Copies of the photo exhibition were also on display at several other venues throughout May, including at International Book Fair in Geneva, Switzerland; UNRWA Major Donors Meeting in Amman; UNRWA Field Offices; and Oslo Town Hall in Norway (November 2000). In addition, the photos and quilts are available for viewing by all on the Internet at www.unrwa.org.