Independent Commission for Aid Impact publishes report on DFID’s Support for Palestine Refugees through UNRWA

13 Sep 2013

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has published a report today on the Department for International Development’s support for Palestine refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The overall rating for the programmes we examined is Green-Amber. UNRWA is delivering a good standard of basic public services in a challenging environment. DFID is driving UNRWA to improve the impact of its services. Until a regional political settlement is reached, UNRWA’s role is central to ensuring that Palestine refugees can access basic services. ICAI found that DFID’s support to UNRWA is an effective way of supporting both organisations’ twin aims of improving the human development outcomes of Palestine refugees and of contributing to regional stability.

Graham Ward, ICAI Chief Commissioner, said: “DFID, through UNRWA, brings real benefits to the intended beneficiaries, notably in the health and education sectors. The dedication of UNRWA staff (who themselves are mostly refugees) is instrumental in achieving these positive results despite the challenges of the environment in which they work. We saw DFID staff engage well with UNRWA at the strategic level to promote efficiency, results and planning.

There is, however, a real risk to the sustainability of this model caused by the growing gap between demand for and supply of UNRWA services. To ensure sustainability, critical decisions must be made urgently and the pace of reform accelerated. DFID is in a position to play a leading role in this reform.  ICAI recommends that:

•           DFID should carry out an urgent assessment to determine the level and nature of support UNRWA will require, to enable it to address effectively the challenge of reform and the widening gap between the demand for and supply of UNRWA services

•           DFID should use its influential position to urge donors and hosts to provide unified political, technical and operational support to drive UNRWA’s reform activities. It should provide substantive support to the implementation of reform in the priority areas within UNRWA’s poverty alleviation, health and education programmes.

•           DFID should encourage UNRWA to engage more actively and to communicate more effectively with refugees as part of the reform process. DFID should consider providing technical support in this area.

Unless profound changes are made, the Green-Amber rating, which is based on performance over the last five years, is at risk of falling to a far lower level.

Lead Commissioner for the report, Mark Foster, added:

“It is clear that the support provided by DFID to UNRWA has helped to deliver vital services to these vulnerable populations over many years. It is now important that DFID uses its influence to sustain this help at a key time for the region.”

UNRWA was established in response to the refugee crisis caused by the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. UNRWA was mandated to provide humanitarian relief and employment for Palestine refugees.  Today, UNRWA provides support to 5 million refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. DFID is UNRWA’s fourth- largest donor, contributing £173 million in the period 2008-12. This review assessed the impact that DFID’s support has had on Palestine refugees and the effectiveness of DFID’s engagement with UNRWA.  The review focussed on UNRWA’s provision of health, education and social support to refugees in all locations, except Syria.


Notes to editors:


– For further information please contact Sam Harrison on 020 7270 6742 or The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is the independent body responsible for scrutinising UK aid. We focus on maximising the effectiveness of the UK aid budget for intended beneficiaries and on delivering value for money for UK taxpayers. For further details on ICAI, the workplan and for links to each report please visit

– ICAI’s Chief Commissioner is Graham Ward CBE. The three other Commissioners are: Mark Foster, John Githongo and Diana Good. Their biographies can be found on the ICAI website.

– These reports were prepared by ICAI with the assistance of KPMG LLP, Agulhas Applied Knowledge, Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA) and the Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU International).

– ICAI reports are written to be accessible to a general readership and we use a simple ‘traffic light’ system to report our judgement on each programme or topic we review, as follows:


I.          Green: The programme performs well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Some improvements are needed.

II.         Green-Amber: The programme performs relatively well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Improvements should be made.

III.        Amber-Red: The programme performs relatively poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.

IV.        Red: The programme performs poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Immediate and major changes need to be made.


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