Independent Review Panel Released Final Report On UNRWA

(MENAFN- Nam News Network) UNITED NATIONS, Apr 23 (NNN-XINHUA) – Israel has yet to prove its claims of UN staff involvement with terrorist organisations, according to a report released by an independent panel, yesterday.

The report tackled Israeli accusations that staff from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) were involved in terrorism.

“Israel made public claims that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organisations. However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this,” according to the 54-page final report, reviewing UNRWA's adherence to the humanitarian principle of neutrality.

UNRWA was established by the General Assembly in 1949, and now employs 30,000 people and serves 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and war-torn Gaza.

Following Israel's allegations against UNRWA in late Jan, the UN agency immediately fired the staff members in question and requested a swift, impartial investigation.

Days later, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, appointed the independent review team, led by Catherine Colonna, former French foreign minister, and researched by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, to investigate UNRWA's process of ensuring neutrality in its work.

The final report found that UNRWA has extensive tools in place, to ensure it remains unbiased in its work and routinely provides Israel with employee lists. It also found that“the Israeli Government has not informed UNRWA of any concerns relating to any UNRWA staff based on these staff lists since 2011.”

“The set of rules and the mechanisms and procedures in place (at UNRWA) are the most elaborate within the UN system, precisely because it is such a difficult issue to work in such a complex and sensitive environment,” Colonna told journalists at UN Headquarters, following the report's launch.

“What needs to be improved will be improved. I'm confident that implementing these measures will help UNRWA deliver on its mandate,” said Colonna.

In its nine-week review of existing mechanisms, the group conducted more than 200 interviews, met with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, and directly contacted 47 countries and organisations. It presented 50 recommendations on issues ranging from education to fresh vetting processes for recruiting staff.

According to the review group's final report, Israel's claims against UNRWA triggered the suspension of funding amounting to around 450 million U.S. dollars.

The report stated that,“in the absence of a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians, UNRWA remains pivotal in providing lifesaving humanitarian aid and essential social services, particularly in health and education, to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank” and is“irreplaceable and indispensable to Palestinians' human and economic development.”

“In addition, many view UNRWA as a humanitarian lifeline,” said the report.

Besides appointing the independent review group, the UN chief also ordered the UN's top watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight, to investigate the veracity of Israel's claims against the 12 UNRWA staff members.

That investigation is ongoing.– NNN-XINHUA


Nam News Network

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