MFAT to consider halting millions in funding for UN Palestine aid agency after serious allegations

Source: 1News

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) says it will consider whether to continue funding an under-fire UN aid agency after a report due in October.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which New Zealand provides about $1 million each year to.

In May, New Zealand re-committed to the core funding, with Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN Craig Hawke signing a three year commitment to continue the funding between 2019 and 2021.

Allegations were then made in late July against senior members of the organisation, which AFP reported to involve "sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority for personal gain".

Middle East media have this week reported that MFAT has pulled its funding of the agency pending a report into the allegations - due in October.

However, an MFAT spokesperson has today confirmed to 1 NEWS that those reports are incorrect, and said funding has not yet been formally suspended.

"The Ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report once the investigation is complete and after that point provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding," an MFAT spokesperson said.

"We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the investigation under way and to report back on the investigation's findings and recommendations."

MFAT said New Zealand provides $1 million per year in core funding to the UNRWA, as well as "additional one-off humanitarian contributions" during emergency appeals.

New Zealand has contributed a total of $2.5 million to UNRWA in the period January to June 2019, and the next core funding payment is due in March next year.