Switzerland will resume sending money to the U.N.’s embattled agency for Palestinian “refugees” after a U.N. internal probe cleared itself of any and all allegations relating to “fraud, misappropriation of funds, systemic corruption, gross nepotism, and sexual misconduct.”
Switzerland was among a number of countries that halted their contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) earlier this year amid suspicions the organization had misused U.S.$ 1.2 billion in donor funds across the Middle East in the space of one year.
For its part, UNRWA said the allegations were baseless and part of an Israeli conspiracy, as Breitbart News reported.
The investigation came after an internal ethics report earlier this year alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the special U.N. agency for Palestinian “refugees” one year after the Trump administration suspended a $125 million contribution to its work.
The report alleged senior management have been engaging 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 initial report drew an immediate response from the U.S. Mission to the U.N.:
— U.S. Mission to the UN (@USUN) July 30, 2019
Now U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has released a statement saying the preliminary findings of an internal U.N. probe found no “fraud or misappropriation of operational funds.”
“There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed,” he said before again affirming all is well in the agency and some fine tuning of accountancy procedures is all that will be needed going forward.
The Swiss foreign ministry told AFP in an email Friday that Guterres had confirmed in a letter sent to Bern on December 3 that “the probe uncovered no evidence of misappropriation of funds.”
The ministry also highlighted reforms put in place by UNRWA to better manage donor funds.
“Taking into account the measures taken and the confirmation from the UN Secretary-General that no donor funds had been misappropriated, [Switzerland] has decided to resume its payments to UNRWA,” it said.
Before halting its payments to the agency, Switzerland had already dispensed some 25 million Swiss francs ($25.4 million) in 2019.
UNRWA runs camps and projects for so-called Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. On its website UNRWA claims “5.1 million refugees” are “covered by our protection mandate,” purportedly including about 500,000 in Lebanon.
Over the years, it has been accused of supporting terrorism and teaching antisemitism to Palestinian children. In 2013, Breitbart News exposed a UNRWA summer program that was indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Jews.
Last year, U.N. Watch released a 130-page report exposing 40 UNRWA school employees in Gaza and elsewhere who engaged in incitement to terror against Israelis and expressed “anti-Semitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”
UNRWA employs around 30,000 people, mostly Palestinians, and its U.N. mandate is set to be debated early next year.
AFP contributed to this report