In response to allegations implicating several UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff members in attacks against Israel on October 7, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed an independent panel to assess the agency’s operations.
The objective is to evaluate UNRWA’s commitment to neutrality and its ability to address serious breaches promptly. Guterres, in consultation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, named the independent Review Group, headed by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. Collaborating with research organizations in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, the panel will commence its work on February 14.
The Review Group’s mandate includes scrutinizing UNRWA’s mechanisms and procedures to ensure neutrality and address allegations of breaches. Working amidst challenging conditions in the Gaza Strip, where it provides vital assistance to two million people, UNRWA faces additional pressure due to a humanitarian crisis and reduced support.
An interim report is expected by late March, with the final public report slated for completion by late April. This comprehensive review aligns with a previous request made by UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.
Concurrently, the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is conducting its investigation into the alleged involvement of 12 UNRWA personnel in the October 7 attacks. Secretary-General Guterres emphasized the critical role of cooperation from Israeli authorities in ensuring the investigation’s success.
The UN warned last week about potential risks to aid operations in Gaza, highlighting that 16 donor countries have reduced their support to UNRWA. Guterres emphasized the challenging operational context in which UNRWA operates and expressed the need for Israeli authorities’ collaboration to ascertain the truth regarding the allegations.
The independent Review Group’s terms of reference were outlined in the Secretary-General’s statement, emphasizing a thorough evaluation of UNRWA’s mechanisms, potential improvements, and recommendations for ensuring effective operation within the complex regional landscape.