Head of UN Refugee Agency Steps Down

Head of UN Refugee Agency Steps Down

Pierre Krähenbühl - UNRWA Commissioner-General

The Commissioner-General of the main UN agency for Palestinian refugees has resigned following alleged accusations of bias and abuses of authority.

In a statement on Wednesday, the UN said Pierre Krähenbühl had quitted with immediate effect his role as commissioner general at the refugee agency after an internal investigation found “management issues.”

Krähenbühl handed in his resignation to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, amid extensive coverage of the allegations, just hours after he had agreed to step aside provisionally sometime earlier in the day.

Preliminary findings “exclude fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krähenbühl, a UN spokesman said separately. “There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed.”

Announcing Krähenbühl was stepping aside, the UN secretary general’s office said the continuing inquiry had “revealed management issues which relate specifically” to the agency’s head. António Guterres had appointed Christian Saunders as the officer in charge for the interim period.

The problems at the agency are believed to have come to light following a wave of pressure by the US and Israel to end the agency’s mandate.
In early July, Krähenbühl said he “unreservedly” rejected the allegations: “If the current investigation – once it is completed – were to present findings that require corrective measures or other management actions, I will not and we will not hesitate to take them,” he said.

“The stepping aside of Krähenbühl is but the first step in a long process that is needed to eliminate corruption, increase transparency and prevent politicization of the agency,” Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ad hominem campaign resulted in many donor countries, including Switzerland and Belgium, suspending funding to UNRWA.

The US already cut its funding in 2018, bringing about a severe financial crisis which the agency, which provides support to 5.5 million Palestinian refugees, continues to struggle with.

UN officials have appealed for donor countries and partners to wait for the final findings and keep their funding in place for Palestinian refugees.

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