UNRWA to undergo reform

18.11.2019 - Article

A number of things are changing at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In Berlin, State Secretary Michaelis received acting Commissioner-General Saunders for discussions about the organisation’s reform process.

Upcoming reforms

UNRWA relief goods in the Gaza Strip
UNRWA relief goods in the Gaza Strip© picture alliance / Photoshot

Their talks focused on the need for reform of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). As part of its support for the organisation, Germany is committed to a substantial and comprehensive reform process within UNRWA.

In his talks with acting Commissioner-General Christian Saunders, State Secretary Andreas Michaelis touched on the ongoing criticism of the organisation’s programmatic work as well as Germany’s expectations of UNRWA with respect to upcoming reforms. “The member states and donors must be closely involved in this; transparency is what matters most here,” said State Secretary Michaelis during the talks.

An important partner

Germany is one of UNRWA’s biggest bilateral donors, underpinning its commitment with political support. The Federal Government has provided financial assistance to the tune of 69 million euros in 2019 so far. Moreover, as a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission, Germany is actively committed to the work and reforms of UNRWA.

State Secretary Michaelis underscored the fact that Germany will continue to support UNRWA: “As an essential anchor of stability in the region, UNRWA is one of the Federal Government’s most important partners when it comes to supporting the Palestinians.”

Turbulent times

UNRWA is facing major challenges. At the beginning of November, the then UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl resigned in the wake of an internal investigation. Christian Saunders was appointed as acting Commissioner-General by UN Secretary-General Guterres on 6 November. 

The UN’s investigations into the allegations have yet to be concluded. As they currently stand, there is, according to the UN, no evidence of corruption or misappropriation of operational funds at UNRWA. According to the investigators, this is rather a case of “management issues” and possible misconduct on the part of individual staff members.

The Federal Government is working to ensure that this probe reach a swift conclusion and that the investigation report is presented. Together with other donors, it is also urging the UN and UNRWA, including at the meeting in Berlin, to consistently implement the possible recommendations made by the report.


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