Opinion

Do not punish Palestinian refugees for UNRWA dysfunction

By: Yara Hawari

Earlier this week, an internal ethics report about the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees was leaked to both Al Jazeera and the AFP news agency. The report details serious abuses of authority within the agency’s senior management team, based on testimonials from former and current staff as well as a variety of other supporting documents.

Most importantly it accuses Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl and a couple of others from his inner circle of having “engaged in misconduct, nepotism, [and] retaliation”. The report also notes that the situation worsened in 2018, following a decision by the United States, UNRWA’s largest donor, to cut its funding of the agency. This 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”.

Many Palestinians were not particularly surprised by the content of the leaked report. Over the years, we have heard many anecdotes about the highly problematic culture of entitlement and abuse perpetuated by well-paid foreign staff at UNRWA and other UN agencies.

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