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PLO's Erekat Urges Expediting UNRWA Corruption Probe

PLO's Erekat Urges Expediting UNRWA Corruption Probe

Sunday, 18 August, 2019 - 06:30
Palestinians hold signs during a protest against aid cuts, outside United Nations' offices in Gaza City January 17, 2018. (Reuters)

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat urged United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres to speed up the course of ongoing investigations into suspected corruption within the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

He hoped the probe would be complete before the end of September.

“UNRWA’s stability and programs this year are ever more important now in the lead up to the renewal of the agency’s mandate… as a part of its ongoing struggle to raise funds and donations,” said Erekat.

In the meantime, Erekat sent identical letters to the foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland in which he expressed his regret over these countries’ decisions to halt aid to the UNRWA based on unconfirmed reports of corruption in the agency.

He called against politicizing humanitarian assistance to UNRWA, which he said would drag the region into further tension and instability.

"Half a million Palestinian children who depend on your regular contributions cannot suspend their classes until the results of the investigation," Erekat said in the letters.

“While you have announced your suspension of assistance to the UNRWA because of the leaked reports, you have not yet announced any accountability measures regarding the continued and systematic Israeli violations of UN resolutions and international law and you still allow Israeli settlement goods to enter your markets,” he noted.

“We expect that you and all peace-loving states take concrete measures of accountability to promote the realization of the long-awaited inalienable rights of the people of Palestine, particularly the right to self-determination,” he added.

According to a statement by Erekat's office, he also sent a similar message to the Organization of Islamic Countries and Arab League.

Earlier this month, the UN said it has started an investigation into reports leaked to the UN Ethics Committee suggesting long-term corruption at the aid agency.

Suffering from severe financial difficulties for several years, UNRWA last year complained of a budget deficit of 49 million US dollars, particularly after the United States stopped its aid to the agency.

The UNRWA has more than 700 schools serving almost 525,000 children and offers healthcare for some 3.5 million refugees through a network of 150 clinics.

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