Humanitarian Aid

UNRWA’s all in on making independent review recs happen

The head of the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA, on Tuesday reiterated that he welcomed the recommendations of a much-awaited report on its efforts to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they arise. 

Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini briefed journalists in New York a day after the independent review panel published its findings

Former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna spearheaded the report, which found that UNRWA has put in place a large number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure its commitment to the principle of neutrality and outlines some 50 recommendations. 

Preparing to update 

UNRWA is committed to implement the Colonna report’s recommendations, he said, before reporting on his meeting with UN Member States that morning. 

“I have informed them that we are now preparing updating our response plan. We will in fact make sure that partners are aware of the measures already being taken and being in line with the recommendations,” he said. 

He noted that while some recommendations can be implemented quickly, others will require additional staff and strong commitment and support from the international community. 

Mr. Lazzarini also explained that the Colonna report is separate from an ongoing probe by the UN’s top investigative body, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), into Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the 7 October Hamas-led assault on its territory. 

UNRWA under attack 

The Commissioner-General was in New York for the report’s launch and a Security Council meeting last week focused on UNRWA, which continues to provide support in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict. 

He said he told the Council that attacks against the agency “are not necessarily motivated because of neutrality issues, but are primarily motivated by the objective to strip the Palestinians from their refugee status”. 

This was why there have been calls for UNRWA not to be present in Gaza, the West Bank and beyond, he added. 

While before the Council, he also called for “an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard” of UN premises, staff and operations in Gaza. 

Staff killed, premises destroyed 

To date, 180 UNRWA staff and at least 400 people seeking UN protection have been killed in the hostilities. More than 160 UNRWA premises have been damaged or completely destroyed. 

There have also been reports that UNRWA premises that have been vacated have been used for military purposes, either by the Israeli army, Hamas or other political factions or armed groups on the ground. Staff have also been arrested and mistreated, if not tortured. 

“You have seen the report which came out yesterday,” he told reporters. “So hence, the importance to have an investigation and to have accountability in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations.” 

Aid on the move 

Mr. Lazzarini also highlighted several positive developments. He said the number of aid trucks entering Gaza this month averages around 200 daily, with a peak of 360 on Monday, representing a positive trend when compared to March. 

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also entered northern Gaza through the Erez crossing on three occasions. 

“My colleagues are also reporting that convoys which went to the north have not been assaulted as they used to be in the past by desperate people who were struggling to get their share of the assistance,” he noted. 

Anxiety over impending offensive 

However, as warmer weather approaches, he warned about the possibility of new disease outbreaks, especially in the south, where garbage collection is a priority. 

“I have also been reminded about the deep anxiety prevailing in the south about the possible looming upcoming military offensive, which seems to be back on the table,” he said, referring to a potential assault on Rafah. 

Mr. Lazzarini was asked about funding lost following the allegations against UNRWA, which prompted up to 18 countries to halt their support to the agency. 

Several countries “have come back”, he said, expressing hope that more will return in the wake of the Colonna report and the measures that will be put in place. 

Additionally, since the start of the year, UNRWA has raised $150 million from the general public, which he called “an extraordinary indication of grassroots solidarity vis-à-vis the organization”. 



  1. How will UNRWA ensure the effective implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Colonna report?

    1. UNRWA will be ensuring the effective implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Colonna report through rigorous monitoring and continuous collaboration with all stakeholders involved in the process.

  2. The head of the UN agency is clearly dedicated to implementing the recommendations for ensuring neutrality and responding to breaches effectively. It’s crucial that the international community provides the necessary support for these efforts to succeed.

  3. It is commendable to see UNRWA taking proactive steps in response to the independent review panel’s recommendations. It’s crucial for organizations to continuously strive for transparency and accountability, especially when serious breaches are at stake. I hope the international community stands behind UNRWA in their efforts to ensure neutrality and implement the necessary measures outlined in the report.

  4. Do you think the UNRWA will face any challenges in implementing all 50 recommendations outlined in the independent review report?

    1. Based on the commitment demonstrated by the UNRWA’s head, Mr. Lazzarini, in welcoming and preparing to implement the recommendations, it seems that while some challenges may arise, the organization is determined to address them with the required resources and support.

  5. I believe it’s crucial for UNRWA to prioritize the implementation of the recommendations from the independent review panel. Transparency and accountability are key in ensuring neutrality and addressing any alleged breaches promptly. It’s a challenging task, but the commitment and support from the international community are essential for success.

  6. As a long-time supporter of UNRWA’s efforts, I am glad to see Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Colonna report for ensuring neutrality. It is crucial for the international community to provide the necessary support for these important initiatives.

  7. Do you think all the recommendations in the Colonna report will be fully implemented by UNRWA? Are there any specific challenges they face in achieving this?

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