U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appoints UNRWA deputy after scathing ethics report

Palestinian refugees collect an aid shipment Wednesday at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency distribution center in the central Gaza Strip camp of of Dair Al Balah. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 2 (UPI) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed a new chief deputy at the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency after reports of rampant corruption — including misconduct, nepotism, retaliation and other major problems.

Guterres appointed Christian Saunders Thursday as acting deputy commissioner of the U.N. Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA. He takes over for American Sandra Mitchell, who resigned last month.

Saunders is UNRWA’s assistant secretary-general for supply chain management, and has served in various posts at the United Nations for 30 years.

His appointment follows a leaked UNRWA ethics report that said senior management members have abused their authority for personal benefit. Mitchell denied all accusations in the report — which also names agency Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl and chief of staff Hakam Shahwan, who resigned this week.

Guterres said Thursday Saunders has experience overseeing major reforms that led to “improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency.”

Guterres urged U.N. members to continue support for the Palestinian relief effort, even after countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States cut financial support. The United States alone cut $300 million in aid last year. Belgium also withdrew support this week, Al Jazeera reported.

The ethics report said investigators also found widespread efforts by officials to “suppress legitimate dissent” and achieve personal objectives.

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