Switzerland Writes Off U.N. Agency in Scandal

(Reuters/Neil Hall)

In response to reports of ethical abuses in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Switzerland said on Tuesday that it has suspended funding.

Disclosure of an UNRWA internal investigation of serious wrongdoing at the agency’s highest levels was made on Monday by AFP. The allegations include “nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Switzerland “attaches particular importance to good governance of international organizations,” the foreign ministry said, describing UNRWA as “an important multilateral partner for Switzerland.”

However, the decision will not have any immediate impact on agency finances, since the country has already made its annual contribution of 22.3 million Swiss francs ($22.5 million — 20.2 million euros) to UNRWA.

But the ministry said it was “suspending any additional contributions” to UNRWA, pending the results of an ongoing U.N. investigation.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is “committed to acting swiftly upon receiving the full report,” spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

The internal report recommended that Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell, Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan and Senior Adviser to the Commissioner-General Maria Mohammedi, be dismissed from their jobs. Mitchell and Shahwan left UNRWA in July.
UNRWA has been struggling to maintain its $1.2 billion budget in the wake of the U.S. decision in 2018 to cut its annual $360 million contribution.

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