15 November 2001


(Reissued as received.)

AMMAN, 14 November (UNRWA) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has won the King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Prize for its 50 years of services to Palestine refugees and its emergency work in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip over the last 13 months.

The prize was presented in Amman by His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Mr. Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA. His Majesty made the award on behalf of the trustees of the King Hussein Foundation, which is chaired by Her Majesty Queen Noor, wife of the late King.

The prize recognizes individuals, groups and institutions who have demonstrated exceptional humanitarian leadership in their efforts to advocate for sustainable development, human rights, tolerance, equity and peace. The prize is given annually on the late King’s birthday on 14 November. The UNRWA was selected for the prize from among 67 different entries from 29 countries.

In awarding UNRWA the award the Foundation’s selection committee declared: "The Agency’s relentless effort in rendering humanitarian services to Palestine refugees and its tireless efforts in promoting peace in the area have been found to meet the criteria of the prize." The Foundation, established in 1999 by Royal Decree as an enduring commitment to the late King’s humanitarian legacy, focuses on democracy and leadership, health and the environment, peace and education.

Mr. Hansen thanked the King Hussein Foundation on behalf of the Agency and said the award was a testimony to the hard work and dedication of UNRWA staff over the last 50 years. He added that the award came at a time when events in the occupied Palestinian territory had brought the Agency closer than ever to the refugees it serves. He said: "I am truly proud of the way our courageous staff members have often risked their lives to go out into the field and provide immediate sustenance to the often frightened refugees. I am sure the Foundation shares my gratitude for their selfless devotion to duty."

The prize of $50,000, which accompanies the award, will be used by the Agency for its programme of trauma counselling for children psychologically affected by the recent violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The UNRWA was established following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict by the United Nations General Assembly to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem its mandate has been repeatedly renewed by the General Assembly. The Agency now provides basic education, health and relief and social services to 3.9 million refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jordan, host to the largest number of Palestine refugees, works closely with UNRWA to provide services for over 1.6 million refugees. The Agency employs 6,000 staff in Jordan to run 190 schools, 24 health centres and 24 women's centres.

UNRWA’s services have been in particular demand by the refugee community during the numerous periods of conflict and unrest that have struck the region over the last 50 years. Most recently, since September 2000, UNRWA has provided emergency food aid, medical care, trauma counselling and employment programmes to refugees and others affected by the strife and Israeli closures in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.


The King Hussein Foundation prize is the third major international prize to be awarded to UNRWA the last two years. Already this month, UNRWA’s school for blind and low-vision children in Gaza City, the Al-Nour Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired, was presented with the Sharjah Award for Excellence in the treatment of children with special needs. In 1999, UNRWA’s microfinance programmes won the AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Developmental Projects.

The King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Prize was first awarded in November 2000 to Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and creator of the Grameen Bank, a microfinance project operated to help the poor of Bangladesh.

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