Monday, October 14, 2019

UNRWA under scrutiny after leaked ethics report

By Patty Diphusa - August 06, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [UNRWA]

On 29 July, an internal ethics report about the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was leaked to Al Jazeera and AFP news agency.  

The internal report details serious abuses of the senior management team based on testimonies from former and current staff of the UN agency.

It specifically accuses newly suspended Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl and others from his close circle of having “engaged in sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation [and] other abuses of authority”. 

Al Jazeera reported that the leaked document suggests the situation worsened in 2018 after the US’s decision to cut funding to the agency. 

The news agency stated, based on the report, that this situation “allowed the senior management to justify an extreme concentration of decision-making power in members of the 'clique’, increased disregard for agency rules and established procedures, with exceptionalism becoming the norm; and continued excessive travel of the Commissioner-General”.

Following the leak, Switzerland and the Netherlands were the first donors to have frozen funding to UNRWA last week. The Middle East Monitor reported that the Netherlands’ Minister for International Aid, Sigrid Kaag stated that “the suspension would remain in force until we get satisfactory answers”.

Belgium has been the latest country to emulate the position of Switzerland and the Netherlands.  

Belgium’s Minister of Development Alexander De Croo asserted last week that "We will take a critical look at the report ... It is not because you stand up for a good cause that you can do whatever you want”.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon stated that “the international community, which generously finances UNRWA, must immediately suspend the budgets assigned to the agency”. 

Danon has long been a critic of the UNRWA having suggested in May this year at a Security Council meeting that “the organisation’s schools have been transformed into terror and incitement infrastructures, with textbooks distributed on the ground denying Israel’s existence”. 

He also added that “UNRWA failed to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip and succeeded only in inciting violence against the State of Israel”.

On 1 August, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed an interim UNRWA director to “ensure operational continuity” and urged member States and other contributors to “continue their support for the crucial work performed by the Agency”. 

An opinion piece by Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, Yara Hawari for Al Jazeera, suggested that the burden should not be placed upon beneficiaries of the agency. 

Hawari explained that “the millions of Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian employees, many of whom are struggling to provide for their families, should not be collectively punished for the offences and selfishness of UNRWA's top management, many of whom are foreigners”.


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