Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Croft Institute for International Studies

First Advisor

Lauren Ferry

Second Advisor

Emily Fransee

Third Advisor

Ashleen Williams

Relational Format



Often referred to as the “Blue State”–due in part to its association with the United Nations’ trademark blue branding–the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has evolved since its creation in 1949 to become both a symbol of the Palestinian cause and an inimitable public service provider across its five areas of operation, especially in regards to education. In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan alone, the UNRWA education program educates more than 120,000 students in 169 schools with results comparable with, if not often superior to, Jordanian public schools.

The UNRWA regime in Jordan stands in contrast to conditions faced by refugee populations elsewhere–where host governments often attempted to “silo” refugees into encampments and impede their access to education, work, and movement, the majority of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, including those educated by UNRWA, do not face such limitations on their development. While UNRWA’s immediate response to Palestinian displacement was focused on direct relief efforts, its current state can be described as one which promotes development amongst Palestinian refugees in Jordan. This thesis seeks to answer the question: Why have UNRWA’s organizational priorities shifted from providing relief to providing development through education in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan? In order to answer this question, international conventions pertaining to refugee protection, regional agreements, Jordanian domestic policy, UNRWA reports, and previous scholarship on the topic are examined and analyzed for connections between regional developments, Jordan’s domestic policy, and UNRWA’s organizational priorities since the Agency became operational in 1950. As a result of this exploration, it is concluded that a combination of factors have caused the transition from relief to development in this case: the length of the conflict in Palestine without resolution, the salience of “right of return” politics in Jordan and the Arab world generally, UNRWA’s status as an international, politically neutral state-like actor forced to achieve its goals through cooperation with stakeholders, and Jordan’s reputation as a “refugee rentier state.”

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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