The resignation of the head of the Agency for Palestinian Refugees greeted with relief at the UN

Suspended after questioning in a report, Pierre Krähenbühl preferred to leave the agency in a context of crisis in Unrwa, much criticized by the United States and Israel.

By Carrie Nooten Posted today at 15h29, updated at 17h53

Time to Reading 3 min.

Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General of the Agency for Palestinian Refugees, during an interview in Damascus, on March 11, 2015.
Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General of the Agency for Palestinian Refugees, during an interview in Damascus, March 11, 2015. OMAR SANADIKI / Reuters

At the United Nations, reactions are mixed as the Commissioner General of the Agency for Palestinian Refugees (Unrwa) resigned, a few hours after being suspended by Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Since March, the Swiss Pierre Krähenbühl and three other senior officials of the Agency, suspected inter alia of abuse of power, are the subject of an internal investigation, elements of which were revealed in the press in July.

"The first results of the survey do not contain fraud or embezzlementsaid Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric's spokesman. But management problems must be solved. " On the set of Swiss TV TSR, where he came to explain Wednesday night, Pierre Krähenbühl said that the investigation did not hold the suspicion of "Personal relationship" that he was lent with one of his advisers – and that he always refuted. "Things have been clarified, he pounded. There remain recruitment and management issues. "

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For many diplomats, while the renewal of Unrwa's mandate is to be discussed at the UN General Assembly in December, this resignation is a relief. " It is clearer, says the spokesperson of a European country. Pierre Krähenbühl had two weeks to present explanations. But it's simpler like that. "

Among the three European countries – Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands – which had stopped funding since the revelations of the survey this summer, optimism is back. "We remain confident in Unrwa's mandate, and will re-examine the situation", it was explained to the Belgian mission of the UN, where two additional endowments to the 2019 budget were suspended. Switzerland has indicated " take note " the resignation of the Commissioner General, and confirmed that she would cease all contributions to Unrwa until the end of the investigation, announced at the end of November.

"Everyone speaks highly of him", an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross

While some diplomats are reassured to move to a more serene context, the resignation of Pierre Krähenbühl does not make sense for everyone. At the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where he was the director of operations for twelve years before joining the United Nations, it is shocking: we do not understand the charges against man to reputation integrates, and which is unanimous within the humanitarian organization. "Everyone talks about him with great esteemexplains an ICRC employee. And yet, in the house, we do not do in the cult of personality! It would be surprising if we could attack him on his integrity. "

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Same astonishment in a New York diplomat, who assures that the Commissioner General of Unrwa has always been perceived as "A man of great quality" among his country's representatives at the United Nations. He proposes : " If the facts are verified, perhaps he has been the victim of human weakness? At this level, one can think oneself unattainable. "

"Attacked directly"

Unrwa, which provides aid to 5.5 million Palestinians, is in the sights of Israel and the United States. Wishing to reduce the number of beneficiaries, they oppose the fact that Palestinians can transmit their refugee status to their children. Washington has even stopped funding since December 2018.

"We are subject to attacks that I have never experienced in twenty-eight years of humanitarian actionsaid Pierre Krähenbühl, who recalls intervening before the Security Council in May. I was attacked directly by the American representative, who questioned multilateralism and the work of Unrwa. I responded to his criticisms. When you do it, at this political level, you know that you will pay a price. "

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To make up for the $ 350 million shortfall in the $ 1.2 billion annual budget, Pierre Krähenbühl led a very active campaign with the Middle East and raised $ 450 million in a few months. The internal report accuses him of having replaced the usual service in charge of fundraising, and thereby to have caused friction. "It was politically efficient, it had to interfere", says a humanitarian actor, also stating that Unrwa has the reputation of being divided by "Cliques".

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