Daily Press Briefing – Reports of an UNRWA Investigation – (Excerpts)



Remarks by the Secretary-General at press encounter at the United Nations Headquarters 


**Questions and Answers


But my other question is about UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). It seems today, you’ve started to take actions regarding the leaked confidential documents about what’s going on in UNRWA, but the investigation is still ongoing. Why you started to take action? And when do you expect these results, that everybody wants them out, to clarify the situation and to take the appropriate action regarding what’s going on? Thank you.

Secretary-General: …I believe that this inquiry can produce an important result, and I can guarantee that everything will be done to make sure that this board of inquiry acts with full objectivity, not to prove anything, but to simply say what the truth is.

On the other hand, we need to look into different aspects. I have been acting quite significantly to make sure that we strengthen UNRWA and UNRWA’s capacity to deliver. I’ve been appealing for the support to UNRWA to all countries of the world as I think we should not… we should distinguish what are the revelations made, or accusations made, in relation to members of the management of UNRWA from the needs to preserve UNRWA, to support UNRWA, and to make UNRWA effective in the very important action in relation to the Palestine refugees, and I’ve been acting consistently to support that.

As you know in the present situation, the deputy of UNRWA has resigned, and so I decided that it would be important to immediately appoint a new deputy as acting deputy and, as I said, in relation to any intervention that might [be] justified, I will wait, according to due process, for the results of the inquiry and, based on the results of the inquiry, I will act accordingly.

Correspondent:  [off mic, inaudible] … for the time being, I know you can’t…

Secretary-General:  As I said, I am in favour of due process. In relation to any additional action that I might take, it will be based on the results of the investigation that is taking place.


Senior Personnel Appointment
The Office of Internal Oversight Services is currently investigating allegations of misconduct in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Secretary-General is committed to acting, as appropriate, once he receives the findings and recommendations. The Secretary-General continues to consider the work undertaken by UNRWA as essential to Palestinian refugees.  He calls upon Member States and other partners to remain committed to UNRWA and its services and continue their support for the crucial work performed by the Agency.
With the aim to support UNRWA and ensure operational continuity, the Secretary-General has decided, in coordination with UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, to appoint Christian Saunders of the United Kingdom as Acting Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.

Mr. Saunders brings to the position over three decades of experience in humanitarian and international affairs with a strong focus on delivering results and overseeing major reforms leading to improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  He is currently Assistant Secretary-General for Supply Chain Management and previously served as Assistant Secretary-General for the Office of Central Support Services.

Mr. Saunders began his United Nations career in 1989 with UNRWA in Gaza and subsequently in senior United Nations roles as Chief of the Procurement Service (2001-2005), Chief of the Coordination and Support Service in the Office of Information and Communications Technology (2005-2009), Executive Officer for the Department of Safety and Security (2009-2013) and Director of the Office of the Under Secretary-General for Management (2013-2017).  He also served in various capacities with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), peacekeeping missions and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Mr. Saunders is a graduate of Royal Holloway College, University of London and the University of Wales in the United Kingdom.  He is married and has three children.



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