Statement on neutrality
By UNRWA Spokesperson Christopher Gunness
A number of allegations have been made against alleged UNRWA staff members which we are looking into as part of our ongoing commitment to maintaining the Agency’s neutrality.
In a deliberate and increasingly systematic way, UNRWA is tackling neutrality head on. The outrageous alleged statements apparently posted online by a tiny fraction of present or former staff do not in any way represent the commitments to neutrality and principles of humanity and independence of 30,000 staff serving with conscience and professionalism in the conflict zones of the Middle-East.
During 2016 the Agency delivered specific neutrality and social media training to senior managers and is soon to launch specific neutrality and social media training for senior managers across all five UNRWA fields of operations and headquarters. In addition, in the coming months we will begin rolling out compulsory on-line social media training to all 30,000 staff, most of them Palestine refugees themselves. The launch of comprehensive face to face social media training in Arabic is imminent with a first phase targeting over 3,000 staff members selected from all areas of operation.
UNRWA takes allegations of neutrality violations with the utmost seriousness. We always look into such allegations and will take disciplinary action where appropriate in accordance with our regulatory framework. We do not make public the details of such cases, as this would undermine efforts to take effective action and would violate standard employee privacy policies and due process. UNRWA reiterates its condemnation of all forms of racism.
Through its emergency work, its education, health, relief and social service programmes, UNRWA promotes the highest possible standards of human development instilling a sense of calm, hope and dignity in some of the most marginalized communities in the Middle East.
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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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.
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