Today, CFI Honorary President, Lord Polak CBE, tabled written questions in the House of Lords on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) following serious allegations of sexual misconduct, abuse of authority, and discrimination within the organisation. The allegations, which have troubled the organisation throughout the summer, have led to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and New Zealand suspending their funding pending the findings of an internal UN investigation into the report.
The leaked confidential internal ethics report alleges that sexual misconduct, nepotism, discrimination, and other abuses of authority took place within the highest levels of the Palestinian aid agency to supress legitimate dissent and further the personal objectives of senior management.
The report also claims that Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, appointed Maria Mohammedi, with whom he allegedly had a relationship “beyond the professional” in a newly created senior adviser role while bypassing the normal decision making process.
Last month, US Middle East Envoy, Jason Greenblatt tweeted that “UNRWA’s model is broken/unsustainable & based on an endless expanding [number] of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better”. He has also called for clarification as to whether the agency has misused American taxpayer’s funds as part of the investigation into its conduct.
Following the leak of the report, the Deputy Commissioner General of UNRWA resigned whilst denying all allegations and the UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, appointed Christian Saunders of the UK as the agency’s acting Deputy Commissioner of the Agency.
The written Parliamentary questions call for an assessment of UNRWA’s mandate and its compatibility in furthering the Government’s commitment to a two-state solution, alongside whether the organisation is in compliance with the Department for International Development’s Anti-Corruption Strategy.