UN names new head of troubled Palestinian refugee agency

(Reuters)
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Updated 18 March 2020

UN names new head of troubled Palestinian refugee agency

  • Lazzarini has more than 30 years of experience in delivering humanitarian assistance and coordinating international efforts in conflict and post-conflict situations
  • Lazzarini will replace former UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appointed Swiss humanitarian expert Philippe Lazzarini to head the beleaguered UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which has faced a financial crisis following the cutoff of US funding and a crisis of confidence after its previous leader was accused of abusing his authority.
The UN chief made the announcement following consultations with the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He said Lazzarini has more than 30 years of experience in delivering humanitarian assistance and coordinating international efforts in conflict and post-conflict situations for the United Nations, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and the private sector. He is currently the UN humanitarian chief for Lebanon.
Lazzarini will replace former UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl, who resigned in November following a preliminary internal UN investigation that raised “management issues,” reflecting concerns over allegations of possible sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.
Those allegations, in a confidential UN ethics office report, came amid an unprecedented financial crisis for UNRWA, sparked by the loss of all funding from the United States, its largest donor.
US President Donald Trump said in January 2018 that the Palestinians must return to peace talks with Israel to receive US aid money — an announcement that led leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups to strongly criticize the American administration for linking aid and political objectives, calling it “dangerous.” The US gave $360 million to UNRWA in 2017, but only $60 million in 2018, and nothing last year or so far this year.
UNRWA was established to aid the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948. It now provides education, health care, food and other services to 5.5 million refugees, their children and grandchildren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The ethics office report obtained by The Associated Press in July 2019 claimed UNRWA managers including Krahenbuhl, a Swiss national, had “engaged in sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority.”
Citing information from some 25 current and past UNRWA directors and staff, the ethics report said an “inner circle” comprising Krahenbuhl, his deputy, chief of staff and senior adviser had bypassed normal decision-making processes and sidelined field and program directors and other senior staff. It alleged that Krahenbuhl started a relationship with his senior adviser that “went beyond the professional,” created “a toxic environment,” and caused “frequent embarrassment.”
Lazzarini joined the United Nations in 2003 and has served in various posts in the UN humanitarian office. He earlier was head of marketing for the Union Bancaire Privée in Geneva and served for 10 years with the ICRC as deputy head of communication, head of its delegations in Rwanda, Angola and Sarajevo, and as an ICRC delegate in southern Sudan, Jordan, Gaza and Beirut.
Dujarric said the secretary-general expressed gratitude to acting UNRWA chief Christian Saunders of Britain, who will continue to serve until Lazzarini starts his new job. No date was given.


Algeria says France to return remains of 24 resistance fighters

Updated 02 July 2020

Algeria says France to return remains of 24 resistance fighters

  • Tebboune said some of the remains belonged to “leaders” of the resistance movement who were killed in the 19th century

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday said France will return the remains of 24 resistance fighters who were killed during its colonization of the North African country.
“Within a few hours Algerian military planes will fly in from France and land at the Houari Boumediene international airport with the remains of 24 (members) of the popular resistance,” Tebboune said during a military ceremony.
Tebboune said some of the remains belonged to “leaders” of the resistance movement who were killed in the 19th century fighting against France which occupied and ruled Algeria for 132 years.
In his speech, Tebboune said these resistance fighters “had been deprived of their natural and human right to be buried for more than 170 years.”
One of the leaders whose remains are to be returned is Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and decapitated.
The remains of two other key figures of the resistance — Bou Amar Ben Kedida and Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al Titraoui — are also among those expected back in Algeria.
The country won independence from France in 1962 after eight years of bitter war that left some 1.5 million Algerians dead.
Emmanuel Macron, the first French president to be born after the war, made his first official visit to Algeria in December 2017, announcing that he came as a “friend” despite France’s historically prickly ties with its former colony.
At the time he told news website Tout sur l’Algerie that he was “ready” to see his country hand back the skulls of Algerian resistance fighters.
Algerian and French academics have long campaigned for the return of 37 skulls held at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris.
In December 2019, Macron said that “colonialism was a grave mistake” and called for turning the page on the past.
During his presidential election campaign Macron had created a storm by calling France’s colonization of Algeria a “crime against humanity.”