Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Tatsushi Arai


Community participation plays an important role in reversing the traditional power dynamic between service providers and beneficiaries. However, the level of community participation facilitated by organizations in their initiatives often varies greatly. This study sought to understand how and to what extent the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) West Bank Field Office can best facilitate community participation with Palestine refugees through its initiatives. Data collection took place at two levels: the strategic and camp level. The strategic level included interviews with a representative from the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Department of Refugee Affairs (DORA) as well as nine staff at the UNRWA West Bank Field Office. At the camp level, eight interviews were conducted with UNRWA Camp Service Officers and staff from community-based organizations in Shufat and Aida camps; 60 surveys were also distributed to camp residents of Aida and Shufat camps. Interviews and surveys focused on the Healthy Camp Initiative (HCI), a participatory project in Aida and Shufat camps from 2015 to 2017, as well as community participation facilitated by UNRWA more broadly. Findings revealed that while the level of participation achieved under the HCI was higher than UNRWA generally facilitates, the participation of vulnerable groups such as women and persons with disability was limited, community representatives were not involved in all stages of the project cycle, and some decisions were ultimately still made by UNRWA. In order for UNRWA to mitigate these challenges and achieve a higher level of participation in future initiatives, a number of practical recommendations are included such as developing a clear UNRWA definition of community participation, creating criteria to promote the genuine inclusion of vulnerable groups in participatory committees in camps, and providing capacity building and training for staff and community representatives on participation.

Key words: refugees, community participation, participatory development, conflict transformation, UNRWA, displacement, empowerment, Palestine


Arts and Humanities | Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Political Science | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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