The Independent Review on UNRWA Adherence to the Humanitarian Principle of Neutrality From Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General

22 April 2024
The Independent Review on UNRWA Adherence to the Humanitarian Principle of Neutrality From Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General


UNRWA welcomes the findings and recommendations of the independent review on the Agency’s adherence to the humanitarian principle of neutrality.  

“UNRWA is firmly dedicated to applying UN values and humanitarian principles. The recommendations in this report will further strengthen our efforts and response during one of the most difficult moments in the history of the Palestinian people.

“The report confirms that UNRWA has established – over many years - policies, mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the principle of neutrality. The report confirms that the Agency has systems to address allegations of neutrality breaches, including through disciplinary sanctions.  It also confirms that between 2022 and 2024, the Agency reviewed all external allegations and opened investigations when evidence of misconduct was present.  

“Safeguarding the neutrality of the Agency is central to our ability to continue saving lives and contributing to the human development of Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip as it faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. 

“The report recognizes the complexity of UNRWA’s mandate within a highly political context.  It makes a series of recommendations that the Agency commits to act upon, namely in the areas relating to engagement with donors, governance, management and internal oversight, neutrality of staff and installations, education, staff unions and enhanced cooperation with UN Agencies.  

“UNRWA commits to working on expanding internal oversight, and engage with partners, including donors, host countries, other UN agencies in constructive ways towards the common goal of increasing impact and adherence to humanitarian principles.

“UNRWA will continue to strive towards providing equitable and quality education, regularly reviewing and improving the content of its education programme to ensure that it adheres to values that contribute to peace, tolerance and human rights. 

“UNRWA is developing an action plan, with a timeline and budget to take forward the report’s recommendations. Implementing some of the recommendations will require extensive engagement with staff and partners, including member states, hosts and donor countries. The Agency looks forward to cooperating with all concerned stakeholders to implement the recommendations. 




Notes to Editors:  

  • The independent review commissioned by the Secretary-General in consultation with the UNRWA Commissioner-General on 5 February, responds to allegations made over the course of many years by external actors.  
  • Prior to the announcement of the independent review by the UNSG, the UNRWA Commissioner General had already committed, on 17 January, to launch a review of the Agency’s internal processes and guidelines. 
  • The Independent Review Group was led by Catherine Colonna, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, who worked with three research organizations: The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Sweden), the Chr. Michelsen Institute (Norway), and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. 
  • The report recognizes the concrete steps UNRWA has taken at the technical level including the creation of a Neutrality Framework, a dedicated Humanitarian Principles Team, and the prioritization of humanitarian principles, integrity, accountability and oversight. 
  • The work of the independent review group was conducted in parallel to the UN’s internal investigation into the allegations concerning the involvement of UNRWA employees in Gaza in the 7 October attacks against Israel. That investigation is ongoing and is being undertaken by the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services, the highest investigative body of the United Nations.  
Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.

Your support is crucial to help us provide emergency aid 
to displaced families in Gaza

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