Gaza Neutrality Issue

24 February 2017

Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson Christopher Gunness

Allegations have been circulating in conventional and social media networks about an UNRWA staff member being elected to political office in Gaza.

As soon as the allegations came to UNRWA’s attention, the Agency undertook a preliminary investigation, including discussing the allegations with the staff member. Based on the due diligence carried out by the Agency to date, UNRWA has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office.

Sohail Al-Hindi has rejected the news about his name appearing amongst the winning list of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, saying: “I have no relation whatsoever with the issue”.

In a deliberate and systematic way, UNRWA is tackling neutrality head on. All UNRWA staff are obligated to uphold the highest standards in terms of neutrality, independence and integrity in fulfilling the Agency’s mandate to provide services to Palestine refugees. These obligations and standards are established through the Area and International Staff Regulations and Rules.

Staff members are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is inconsistent or might adversely reflect upon the independence and impartiality required by their status.

All UNRWA staff are regularly advised that holding of political party offices, membership on any political committee, acceptance or solicitation of any financial contributions for political purposes, initiation or signature of petitions involving political candidates or political issues, are all examples of what is regarded as improper conduct for Agency staff.

If any new allegations come to light, we will look into them immediately and thoroughly.

There is more information about the range of activities we undertake to promote neutrality in relation to staff, installations, suppliers and beneficiaries at this link: https://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2011033075942.pdf  

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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