UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday appointed an independent panel to conduct an assessment of the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA, following accusations that several staff were involved in the 7 October attacks against Israel. The independent Review Group – appointed in consultation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini – will examine whether the agency is doing everything it can to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they arise.

It will be led by former French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, who will work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Work will begin on 14 February and an interim report is expected to be submitted to the Secretary-General in late March. The final report, which will be made public, is expected to be completed by late April.

The review is in response to a request made by the UNRWA Commissioner-General last month. It will take place in parallel with an investigation currently underway by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) into allegations of the involvement of 12 UNRWA personnel in the 7 October attacks. “The accusations come at a time when UNRWA, the largest UN organization in the region, is working under extremely challenging conditions to deliver life-saving assistance to the two million people in the Gaza Strip who depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world,” the Secretary-General said in a statement.

The UN warned last week that aid operations in Gaza are at risk as 16 donor countries have slashed support to the agency. The Secretary-General said the cooperation of the Israeli authorities, who made the allegations, will be critical to the investigation’s success, and his statement outlined the independent Review Group’s terms of reference.

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Source: The UN

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