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Sharjah Crown Prince inaugurates special UNRWA exhibition at AUS on Palestinian refugee camps
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of American University of Sharjah (AUS), a special exhibition showcasing ground breaking community participation in urban planning that is improving the conditions of Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East opened today, 4 November, at the AUS campus.
The exhibition was inaugurated by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, with Margot Ellis, Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), at the Rotunda of the AUS Main Building.
Entitled "Space, Time, Dignity, Rights: Improving Palestinian Refugee Camps," the unique exhibition puts the spotlight on cutting-edge, grass roots involvement in planning and improving the camps. This initiative has been pioneered by UNRWA, which works in 58 refugee camps, and has been supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Organized in cooperation with the AUS College of Architecture, Art and Design, an academic conference exploring its main themes was held following the inaugural session.
"We are very pleased to cooperate with UNRWA on this important project. AUS places great emphasis on such collaborations as their significance cannot be underestimated," said Dr. Thomas Hochstettler, Acting Chancellor of AUS. "This exhibition features new works developed in partnerships between camp communities, UNRWA, local and international architects, planners and artists. Through audio and video works, documents, drawings, sketches and testimonies the viewers will gain a vivid insight into the process of planning - how ideas were developed, decisions made and projects implemented. The outcomes are impressive indeed."
Speaking on the occasion, Issam Miqdadi, Director of UNRWA's Camp Improvement Department, said: "The exhibition puts the work of UNRWA into its geographical and historical context. It introduces viewers to the urban reality of the camps, which are home to 1.5 million refugees out of almost five million living in UNRWA's fields of operation. It focuses on the recent Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme launched by UNRWA and has been supported by BMZ - a new and innovative approach to improve the living conditions in Palestine refugee camps, which have evolved in the last 65 years, from temporary tent cities into complex and diversified living environments," he added.
"While camps in more isolated locations are still in a state of under-development, with refugees living in zinc roofed and makeshift houses, other camps have become hyper-congested sprawls of multi-storey buildings where poverty and extreme overcrowding are rife," noted Miqdadi.
The Ruler of Sharjah has generously supported an important Palestinian refugee records project that archived and enhanced the registration operation by establishing the new system. Furthermore, UAE non-governmental organizations have been heavily involved in recent years in Palestine refugee camp construction and improvement. The UAERC has funded a major housing development in Khan Younis, Gaza, and a shelter improvement programme in Burj Shemalii, South Lebanon. The Zayed Foundation has funded school construction in Gaza and the West Bank. Other NGO's supporting Palestine refugees have included the Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation, the Ahmad Bin Zayed Foundation, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Foundation, Human Appeal International, Salam Ya Sughar and Dubai Cares.
The exhibition, which runs until November 14, is supported by the German Government through the Regional Social and Cultural Fund for Palestinian Refugees and Gaza Population, (GIZ). It has been curated by the University of Stuttgart/ Chair of International Urbanism in collaboration with the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Programme (ICIP) of UNRWA.