Attacks on UNRWA Not about Its Neutrality, Says UNRWA Chief



Philippe Lazzarini
  • by Naureen Hossain (new york)
  • Inter Press Service

Lazzarini also told reporters that his focus now was to bridge the funding gap left by the United States, which was UNRWA’s biggest donor, and among the first to suspend its support. The US is stipulated to freeze its funding to UNRWA until March 2025. Should this suspension be long-lasting, Lazzarini warned that it would have a “sustainable impact” on UNRWA funding and operations.

He remarked that “grassroots solidarity through digital fundraising” has bolstered support for UNRWA. The agency has received 50-100 million USD in donations since the current hostilities.

UNRWA staff on the ground continue their work under dangerous circumstances and even under questions of the agency’s neutrality. The ongoing attacks against the Palestinians raise the question of whether UNRWA can or should maintain neutrality under the circumstances. Lazzarini noted that UNRWA staff and the communities they serve are “deeply anxious of the possibility that UNRWA could be dismantled”. “UNRWA has been a lifeline not only for the community, but for their families,” Lazzarini said.

Lazzarini’s press briefing also followed the public release of the report from the independent investigation into UNRWA, led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna. The report is the result of a nine-week investigation into the agency’s operations and conduct to assess its neutrality as a UN entity. In short, the report makes several key recommendations to address concerns over transparency in communications and accountability, management reform, staff neutrality, and cooperation with other UN agencies, among others.

With regards to the report, Lazzarini said that UNRWA would keep member states regularly informed of their plans to implement the recommendations made in the Colonna report, while also adding that the success of these recommendations would require the full support of donors.

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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