In consultation with the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed an independent group to conduct a review of the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, led by Catherine Colonna, former French Foreign Minister. This comes in response to a request from UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini earlier this year.
According to a statement issued by Secretary-General António Guterres, the group will assess whether UNRWA is doing everything it can to ensure its neutrality and respond to allegations of serious violations when they occur. Ms. Catherine Colonna will work with 3 research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.
The group will begin its work on 14 February and is expected to submit an initial report to the Secretary-General in late March and to complete its final report - which will be published - in late April.
Specializations of the independent group
The group's terms of reference include:
1-Identify the mechanisms and measures currently used by UNRWA to ensure its impartiality and respond to allegations or information indicating a possible violation of this principle.
2. Ascertain how - or not - these mechanisms and measures are applied in practice, and whether all practical efforts have been made to fully implement them, taking into account the specific operational, political and security environment in which UNRWA operates.
3. Assess the adequacy of those mechanisms and measures and whether they are appropriate for their purpose, including with regard to risk management and taking into account the operational, political and security context of the agency’s work.
4. Provide recommendations to improve and strengthen - when necessary - existing mechanisms and measures or develop new and alternative mechanisms, measures and procedures that are more appropriate for the goal.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations indicated that the accusations against a number of UNRWA employees come at a time when the agency - the largest UN organization in the region - is working under very difficult conditions to provide life-saving assistance to two million people in the Gaza Strip who depend on it for their survival under one umbrella. One of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world.
The independent external review will be conducted in parallel with an investigation currently being conducted by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services into allegations of the involvement of 12 UNRWA employees in the 7 October attacks.
The Secretary-General said that the cooperation of the Israeli authorities - which made the allegations - would be crucial to the success of the investigation