About the Author: Eric P. Schwartz serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.
During my recent trip to Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, I met with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees benefiting from U.S. government-funded programs, as well as with government officials and representatives of the United Nations, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
In Jordan, on November 16, I had the honor of inaugurating a U.S.-funded school for over 700 young Palestinian girls run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in the Zarqa refugee camp near Amman. Teachers and students proudly showed me their new building with bright classrooms and modern equipment, and told me about the difference the school was making in their lives. I was deeply impressed and moved by the hope and dedication to education that these young women displayed, and their excitement about being able to study in a facility that can foster their ambition. The United States, through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, provided nearly $268 million in 2009 in support of UNRWA, funding which went to support education for girls and boys, meet basic needs, promote tolerance, and build capacity for a future Palestinian state. Throughout my visit, I advocated for increased regional and international donor support for UNRWA as an essential provider of humanitarian assistance for Palestinian refugees and a key stabilizing force in the region.
The girls of Zarqa Camp and their teachers reminded me why our support for UNRWA is so critical: these girls may one day be the leaders of a Palestinian state, and our support represents a valuable investment in the future.