At the plenary meeting of the Refugee Working Group (RWG) in Cairo in May 1994 it was suggested that FAFO conduct a study of UNRWA's data on Palestinian refugees. The purpose would be to evaluate the usefulness of UNRWA data for research on Palestinian refugees and to suggest ways of utilizing this information. We were delighted to take on the challenge, not least because we had come to appreciate UNRWA's important role through previous projects in the Middle East. UNRWA is in the possession of a vast body of information on Palestinian refugees that holds great potential, given its comprehensive scope with regard to time, geography and topics. A uniform system of data collection across the five UNRWA Fields of Operations, makes interesting comparisons possible. We should, however, point out at the outset that there are also many limitations. It should be kept in mind that most of UNRWA's data have not been produced for research purposes and that the Agency's mandate has not favoured production of statistical information.

Norway is in charge of the so-called data-base theme in the Refugee Working Group in the Middle East Peace Process. Against this background, FAFO has been asked to carry out several studies on Palestinian living conditions. In the past, FAFO has presented two reports to the RWG, the sample surveys "Palestinian Society"(1993) and "Responding to Change"(1994). The present study, which was first presented to RWG participants at the Intersessional Expert Seminar held in Oslo in October 1994, is not concerned with collecting original data. As indicated, the intention has been to provide an overview of relevant material and to assess how it might be utlilized. For the latter purpose, some possible projects have been suggested at the end of the report. The study is based on a review of UNRWA material, discussions with UNRWA staff, visits to UNRWA's Headquarters in Vienna and Amman, as well as visits to UNRWA Field Office in Amman, a refugee camp, and UNRWA installations on the ground.

This study would not have been possible without the active assistance and support from UNRWA. We are especially indebted to Special Advisor to the Commissioner-General, Yves Besson and Assistant Chef de Cabinet, Rick Hooper. We are also grateful to Under-Secretary-General Terje Rød Larsen and Commissioner-General Ilter Turkmen for their support to the project. Personnel at UNRWA Headquarters and Field Office in Amman should be commended for their invaluable help.

The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided full funding for the project and has shown a keen interest in the project. We are indebted to Deputy Minister Jan Egeland, Minister Counselor Hans Fredrik Lehne, Head of Division Kåre Eltervåg and Executive Officer Unni Kløvstad.

The two main authors of the report Lena C. Endresen and Geir Øvensen have managed to complete this report in a race against time. Endresen and Øvensen have worked with flair, vigour and enthusiasm. They have received support and comments from FAFO's Norwegian staff: Research Directors Jon Pedersen and Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Senior Researcher David Drury and Special Advisor Jan Dietz.

Geir O. Pedersen

Centre for International Studies, FAFO
Oslo, November 1994

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