UN’s head of Palestinian refugee agency resigns amid misconduct inquiry


Pierre Krähenbühl, head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the main UN agency for Palestinian refugees, has resigned with immediate effect from his role as commissioner general at the agency after an internal investigation found “management issues.”

Krähenbühl became embroiled in a scandal involving accusations of nepotism, abuses of authority and having an affair with an employee, a UN statement on Wednesday said.

He tendered his resignation to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday amid widespread coverage of the scandal just hours after he had agreed to step aside temporarily earlier in the day.

Preliminary findings “exclude fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krähenbühl, a UN spokesman said separately. “There are, however, managerial issues that need to be addressed.”

The Swiss national has previously strongly denied allegations of impropriety.

A leaked internal investigation into misconduct at UNRWA, completed late last year, accused the agency of “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including some involving Krähenbühl.

Announcing Krähenbühl was stepping aside, the UN secretary general’s office said the continuing inquiry had “revealed management issues which relate specifically” to the agency’s head.

Sources said the allegations concerning Krähenbühl involved his relationship with a female member of staff, with whom he flew around the world travelling in business class and staying in boutique hotels.

According to Swiss media reports earlier this year, Krähenbühl, who is married, reportedly created a post for a woman with whom he was allegedly in a relationship. The cost of the role was funded by the Swiss foreign ministry from March 2015 to December last year.

Several donor countries, including Switzerland and Belgium, suspended funding to UNRWA, which provides support to 5.5 million Palestinian refugees, over the allegations.

The alleged misbehaviour at the top of the agency also reportedly involved other senior staff, with some of the complaints allegedly involving attempts to cover up other wrongdoing.

The problems at the agency are believed to have come to light after two dozen senior staff complained to UNRWA’s ethics officer, who completed a report on the allegations for Guterres in December last year. (Source: The Guardian)