Interim report finds UNRWA needs to address 'critical' areas

Review group will develop 'concrete and realistic recommendations' on how to 'strengthen and improve' UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Right-wing Israelis protest outside the UNRWA offices in Jerusalem. EPA
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An independent review group responsible for evaluating the neutrality and responses of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Wednesday it had identified “critical areas” that need to be addressed.

The review group, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, “will now develop concrete and realistic recommendations on how to address these critical areas to strengthen and improve UNRWA”, a statement read.

The UN did not provide details on what these critical areas might be.

The group is due to present its final report on the UNRWA to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the end of April.

The UN agency, created in 1949, came under heavy scrutiny after Israel accused about a dozen of its employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attacks that resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people and the kidnapping of 240.

The claims led to the US and other countries freezing funds for the agency, which is responsible for delivering humanitarian aid and services to Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and countries in the region.

The world body has launched an internal and an independent investigation into the claims.

Amid growing fears of starvation in Gaza, Australia, Canada, Sweden and the EU have resumed funding for the agency, which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states.

But Washington has refused to resume funding the UNRWA until the end of its own investigation, although US media reported this month that the National Intelligence Council said in a report that the accusations against agency staff could not be independently verified.

The UNRWA employs about 30,000 people in the Palestinian territories – including 13,000 in Gaza – as well as neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, told the General Assembly this month that it is facing a deliberate and concerted campaign to undermine its operations, aimed at ultimately ending them.

Updated: April 09, 2024, 10:48 AM