Will New Zealand suspend funding to UNRWA?

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it recognizes UNRWA challenges and is considering next steps regarding funding.

By ALEX WINSTON
August 27, 2019 03:36
2 minute read.
Pierre Krahenbuhl Commissioner-General of the UNRWA attends a news conference in Geneva

Pierre Krahenbuhl Commissioner-General of the UNRWA attends a news conference in Geneva. (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE / REUTERS)

New Zealand has not formally suspended funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The statement contradicted an earlier report by the Israel Institute of New Zealand (IINZ).

Earlier this week, IINZ reported that the country suspended donations to UNRWA following an internal report that found “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”
IINZ reported that over the past decade, New Zealand taxpayers have contributed more than NZ $10 million to UNRWA and that the country recently committed to giving $3 million over the next year in a deal struck between New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the UNRWA staff member at the center of the current allegations, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.
 
An investigation in July found that the commissioner-general of UNRWA was allegedly centralizing management, exploiting its power to promote associates and neglecting his role in favor of extensive travel around the world.

MFAT said the country provides NZ $1 million in core funding to UNRWA each year and periodically makes additional one-off humanitarian contributions to UNRWA’s emergency appeals.

The response said that New Zealand contributed a total of $2.5 million to UNRWA between January and June 2019.

IINZ shared a letter it received from MFAT with the Post that indicated that the ministry would review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report and, until then, “New Zealand will not make any further payments until we have reviewed the report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.”

“We are conscious these are complex issues and it is not for the ministry to question your assessment,” MFAT wrote.

However, in MFAT’s response to the Post, it said that while it was “aware of media reports of allegations of ethical issues and mismanagement within UNRWA that came to light at the end of July, we expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the investigation underway and to report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations.”

MFAT said New Zealand’s next payment to UNRWA is not scheduled until March 2020. Therefore, “the ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Service report once the investigation is complete and after that point provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

“We urge New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters to stand by and publish their commitment... and not to backtrack in the face of pressure,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.


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