Middle East

UN chief appoints interim UNRWA head amid probe

Supply chain chief Christian Saunders to serve as acting chief while ethics probe continues

Michael Hernandez   | 01.08.2019
UN chief appoints interim UNRWA head amid probe


Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Thursday an interim head of the UN's Palestine agency amid a review of misconduct allegations within senior levels of the department.

Guterres appointed the UN's supply chain chief, Christian Saunders, as acting UNRWA director to "ensure operational continuity," the UN said in a statement.

Saunders began his career in the UN at UNRWA in 1989.

Guterres urged member states and other UNRWA contributors to "continue their support for the crucial work performed by the Agency" after Netherlands and Switzerland suspended their contributions after an internal ethics review found misconduct within the agency, most seriously within the agency's senior team including its commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl.

Al-Jazeera published the report's findings Monday.

It suggests UNRWA's inner circle, including Krahenbuhl, Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell - who left her post in late July, Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan - who departed in early July and Senior Adviser to the Commissioner-General, Maria Mohammedi, be considered for removal from the agency.

The report asserts they "have engaged in misconduct, nepotism, retaliation" as well as "other abuses of authority."

Established in 1949, UNRWA is engaged in relief and human development works supporting nearly 6 million registered Palestinian refugees.

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