The under-criticized UN aid agency expects the first results of the investigation in March. UNRWA's neutrality should also be checked.

Dorothee Klaus at the microphone.

UNRWA representative, Dorothee Klaus. Photo: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

SEDAN taz | A first report on the latest allegations against the UN Palestinian aid agency, UNRWA, is expected to be available in March. This was stated by the organization's representative in Lebanon, Dorothee Klaus. The statements apparently referred to the announced internal UN investigation, which is being carried out by the UN Internal Oversight Office, which reports to UN chief António Guterres. At the same time, an independent group led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna will investigate the extent to which UNRWA is neutral. The EU has demanded that UNRWA also accept a review by EU-appointed experts.

At the end of January it emerged that twelve employees of the organization were apparently involved in the Palestinian massacre of October 7. Israel has long criticized the aid organization and last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for its work to stop. However, Israeli media reported that the Jerusalem government is against an immediate end to UNRWA's work. The humanitarian organization manages, among other things, some 700 schools in five areas of operations in the region, including the Gaza Strip.

In addition to Germany, the US government also suspended its payments to the aid organization. Both countries are by far the organization's largest donors. Washington now wants to use the money to benefit Palestinians through other UN organizations, such as the children's aid organization Unicef. More recently, the US government transferred between $300 and $400 million a year to UNRWA. Previously, then-President Donald Trump, close to the Israeli right, suspended payments completely in 2018.

Spain announces extra payment

Now that several countries have suspended their payments for the time being, Spain – a relatively small donor – announced on Monday that it would make an additional payment to the aid organization. Germany and other European countries may resume payments as soon as investigations are completed. However, if the Europeans were to fail as long-term donors, the organization's work would be at risk, also taking into account that a possible new US government under Trump would probably no longer transfer money.

Unlike a “defunding” of the aid organization decided by individual donors, an official political liquidation of the UN organization would be difficult and lengthy because the UN General Assembly would be involved. A decision at the UN level to discontinue the aid agency and transfer its work to other UN organizations is therefore unlikely to occur without a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army fired on a truck carrying aid supplies on Monday, according to UNRWA. “This morning, a food convoy waiting to enter the northern Gaza Strip was hit by Israeli naval fire; fortunately no one was injured,” UNRWA Gaza chief Thomas White wrote on Platform X (previously Twitter). He also posted photos of a damaged vehicle. Israel said it was investigating the allegation.