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UNRWA Faces Scrutiny: Independent Review Launched Amid Allegations

The Secretary-General, in consultation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, has appointed an independent Review Group to assess whether the Agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality

By: ATN News

United Nations: In response to mounting allegations and concerns regarding neutrality and serious breaches within the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Secretary-General, in collaboration with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, has appointed an independent Review Group to comprehensively assess the Agency's protocols and responsiveness.

The distinguished Catherine Colonna, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, has been designated to lead the review, assisted by three reputable research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Commencing its investigative work on February 14, 2024, the Review Group is set to present an interim report to the Secretary-General by late March 2024. The final report, expected by late April 2024, will be made public, ensuring transparency and accountability in addressing the concerns raised.

The impetus for this comprehensive review stems from a request made by UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini earlier this year. The terms of reference for the Review Group encompass a thorough examination of existing mechanisms and procedures within UNRWA, evaluating their efficacy in ensuring neutrality and responding to allegations or breaches. The assessment will also scrutinize the practical implementation of these mechanisms, considering the unique operational, political, and security challenges faced by the Agency.

Moreover, the Review Group will evaluate the adequacy of current mechanisms and procedures, with an emphasis on their fitness for purpose. Recommendations for improvement, potential strengthening, or the creation of alternative mechanisms will be offered, with due consideration given to the specific operational, political, and security context of UNRWA's operations.

These developments occur against the backdrop of UNRWA's significant role as the largest UN organization in the region, working diligently to provide life-saving assistance to the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip amidst one of the most extensive and intricate humanitarian crises globally. The Secretary-General underscores the critical nature of these accusations and their potential impact on UNRWA's mission.

Simultaneously, an investigation is underway by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into allegations involving 12 UNRWA personnel in the October 7 attacks. The success of this parallel investigation hinges on the cooperation of the Israeli authorities, who brought forward these allegations.

As UNRWA confronts these challenges, the initiation of an independent external review underscores the commitment to transparency, accountability, and the continuous improvement of mechanisms ensuring neutrality in the face of serious allegations. The international community will be closely monitoring the outcomes of both investigations to ascertain the future course of action and safeguards for the millions of people relying on UNRWA's vital assistance.


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