U.N. Renews UNRWA Despite Scandal

Pierre Krähenbühl has headed UNRWA since 2014. (unrwa.org)

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly renewed the mandate for a U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees for another three years amid misconduct allegations and a cash shortfall triggered by a halt in U.S. funding.

The mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was extended until June 30, 2023, with 169 votes in favor and nine abstentions, while the United States and Israel voted against.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl resigned last month amid an investigation into misconduct allegations. Krähenbühl has denied wrongdoing and said his agency was the victim of a political campaign designed to undermine it.

Not satisfied with Krähenbühl’s claims, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium suspended payments to UNRWA over the inquiry, deepening the budget crisis set off last year by the United States. UNRWA hopes the management shake-up will help pacify donors, said a source with knowledge of the organization’s thinking.

The agency has faced budgetary difficulties since last year, when the United States – its biggest donor – halted its aid of $360 million per year. The United States and Israel have both accused UNRWA of mismanagement and anti-Israeli incitement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas praised the vote.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States has advocated shifting the agency’s relief services to refugee host countries. But UNRWA counters it provides a humanitarian lifeline and that it safeguards and advances Palestinians’ rights under international law.

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