Ethics report says U.N. figures abused authority for private gain

A leaked internal ethics report within the United Nations’ Palestinian relief agency accuses some members of its senior management team of abusing their authority for personal gain.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks to reporters on June 17 at an event near Amman, Jordan. File Photo by Andre Pain

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency report said an “inner circle” in the organization’s top ranks also abused authority “to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives,” Al Jazeera reported Monday.

The report from the UNRWA ethics office named Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, former deputy Sandra Mitchell, former chief of staff Hakam Shahwan and senior adviser Maria Mohammedi among those involved.

The report was sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres months ago, but there has been little movement on the issue, Al Jazeera’s report said.

The ethics complaint said the accused “engaged in misconduct, nepotism, retaliation … and other abuses of authority,” consolidating power that escalated sharply in 2018. The escalation came at the time the United States slashed contributions by $300 million last year, and nothing this year.

Krahenbuhl denied the charges but said he would make changes.

“If the U.N. investigation finds room for corrections in the organization, I will not hesitate to execute them, although all claims that I or the management of the organization don’t relate to our roles with the seriousness demanded are baseless and mistaken,” Krahenbuhl said.

“It is on us to examine the findings of the report when it comes out, and not to rely on rumors. The accusations are false and fabricated.”

The UNRWA said last week it remains remained committed to serving Palestinian refugees, despite U.S. cuts.

ByClyde Hughes