The Dilemmas of Local Development and Palestine Refugee Integration in Jordan: UNRWA and the Arab Development Society in Jericho (1950–80)
Special Feature: 
Palestine refugees
right of return
human development assistance
vocational training

In this article, Jalal Al Husseini analyzes the relations UNRWA maintained over three decades (1950–80) with the Arab Development Society (ADS), a Palestinian philanthropic nongovernmental institution specialized in agricultural development and vocational/ technical training operating in Jericho, West Bank. Based on ICRC and UNRWA archives, it first provides a novel insight into the internal debates that unfolded among Palestinians, both refugees and non-refugees, about how to envisage refugee socioeconomic status between, one the one hand, minimal integration in the name of the right of return for refugees (as championed by camp refugees), and quasi-assimilation (as promoted by local assistance institutions, UNRWA, and their international donors) on the other. It also highlights the ideological and operational commonalities between UNRWA and the ADS that allowed for joint working partnerships. Assessing the modalities of such partnerships, the author shows how financial, operational, and political challenges (mainly the refugees’ opposition to any initiative likely to threaten their right of return and interim refugee status) limited their outcomes before finally bringing them to an end. Overall, this article explains why, despite UNRWA’s embeddedness in the local context, its ties in the local institutional context have remained limited.

Author biography: 

Jalal Al Husseini is an associate research fellow in political sociology at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Amman. Specialized in refugee assistance, social protection, and labor market issues, he also works as an expert in social and economic issues for the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (Jordanian NGO), and a consultant for United Nations agencies, including UNRWA and the ILO. His PhD at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, focused on the local political dimensions of UNRWA’s mandate. He is co-editor with Norig Neveu and Valentina Napolitano of Forced Migration in Jordan: Reception Policies and Settlement Strategies (I. B. Tauris and Bloomsbury, forthcoming in 2023); co-editor with Véronique Bontemps, Nicolas Dot-Pouillard, and Abaher El Sakka of Penser la Palestine en réseaux (Diacritiques, 2020); and co-author with Aude Signoles of Les Palestiniens entre État et diaspora: Le temps des incertitudes (IISMM/Karthala, 2013).