Switzerland suspends funding to UNRWA amid reports of misconduct

July 31, 2019 by JNS
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Switzerland announced on Tuesday that it has suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. agency geared to assist Palestinians, amid an internal report of sexual misconduct, discrimination and ethics violations.

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Switzerland has contributed $22.5 million annually to UNRWA and had already done so for this year, the Swiss foreign ministry told AFP, adding that it is “suspending any additional contributions” to the agency.

The AFP obtained a copy of an internal ethics report sent to the U.N. secretary-general in December that alleges UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and other top officials at the U.N. agency have engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

The allegations are currently being probed by U.N. investigators.

In one instance, Krähenbühl, a married father of three from Switzerland, is accused of having a lover appointed to a newly created role of senior adviser to the commissioner-general after an “extreme fast-track” process in 2015, which also entitled her to travel with him around the world with top accommodations.

UNRWA said that it will cooperate fully with the investigation, but will not discuss details due to the ongoing investigation.

According to reports, two senior officials charged in the investigation have already resigned.

UNRWA provides various kinds of aid and assistance to Palestinian refugees and generations of their descendants, in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, as well as Judea and Samaria.

It employs approximately 30,000 Palestinians, making it one of the largest employers of Palestinians in the world.

The internal report was sent to the U.N. secretary-general in December and comes to light during a funding crisis caused by a U.S. decision to end its support for the agency.


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