The Palestinian refugee situation, which emerged from events surrounding the State of Israel’s birth over seventy years ago, remains one of the largest and most protracted refugee crises of the post-Second World War era. The Global Migration Lab (GML) Student Research Initiative will hold a panel discussion featuring authors Francesca Albanese and Dr. Lex Takkenberg to mark the publication of the second edition of their book, Palestinian Refugees in International Law.
The discussion will address some background of the crisis and the status of the refugees today, the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the nature of Western governments’ involvement, and finally, potential durable solutions to the crisis.
Speakers also include Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a medical doctor and U of T faculty member who was born and raised in the Jabalia Refugee Camp, as well as Karen AbuZayd, the former Commissioner-General of UNRWA. Dr. Emily Scott (GML research associate; postdoctoral researcher, McGill University) will serve as moderator.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian Canadian physician and an internationally recognized human rights and inspirational peace activist. Dr. Abuelaish has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he is fondly known as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and the “Martin Luther King of the Middle East”. Dr. Abuelaish’ s book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, an autobiography of his loss and transformation, has achieved worldwide critical acclaim. Published in 2010, (currently in 23 different languages). Currently, Dr. Abuelaish lives in Toronto where he is Full Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto
Karen AbuZayd served as Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from 2005 to 2010 and as Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA from 2000 to 2005. Abu Zayd is currently a Commissioner for the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. Karen AbuZayd also wrote the foreword to the recently published second edition of the book, Palestinian Refugees in International Law.
Francesca P. Albanese is a Research Affiliate for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), Georgetown University and Visiting Scholar, at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Studies Policies and International Affairs, American University of Beirut. She is an international lawyer specialized in human rights and refugee issues in the Arab world. She has 15 years of professional experience, working with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, European Union (electoral assistance), UN Development Programme, and NGOs (protection, human rights). Albanese received her LL.B (Hons.) at Pisa University, and her LL.M (Human Rights) at SOAS University.
Dr. Emily Scott is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for International Peace and Security at McGill University. She is Research Associate of the Global Migration Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and member of the McGill Refugee Research Group. She studies international relations and comparative politics, with a focus on humanitarianism, conflict and security, health, and migration. Dr. Scott has worked for organizations like CIDA’s Afghanistan Task Force, the UNDP in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Carter Center in South Sudan, and Doctors Without Borders.
Dr. Lex Takkenberg has worked with UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, from 1989 until late 2019 and is currently a freelance lecturer and consultant. He is the former Chief of the UNRWA Ethics Office. Prior to that, he held positions including UNRWA’s General Counsel, (agency-wide) Director of Operations, and (Deputy) Field Director in Gaza and Syria. Before joining UNRWA, he was the Legal Officer of the Dutch Refugee Council for six years. A law graduate from the University of Amsterdam, he obtained a Doctorate in International Law from the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
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