01:19 GMT25 February 2020
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    UNITED NATIONS (Sputnik) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed an acting deputy head of the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East amid an ongoing investigation into possible misconduct on the part of the agency's previous leaders, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

    "With the aim to support UNRWA and ensure operational continuity, the secretary-general has decided, in coordination with UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, to appoint Christian Saunders of the United Kingdom as Acting Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at the level of Assistant Secretary-General", Dujarric said in statement.

    The UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services is conducting an ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct, and Guterres is committed to taking the appropriate steps once he receives the office's findings and recommendations, Dujarric added.

    Guterres urges all of the United Nations members to continue their support for UNRWA and views the agency's work as "essential to Palestinian refugees", Dujarric said.

    The spokesman said Saunders brings to UNRWA over 30 years of experience in humanitarian and international affairs with a focus on improving “organizational effectiveness and efficiency”. The UK official currently holds the position of assistant secretary-general for the supply chain management.

    Former deputy chief of UNRWA, Sandra Mitchell resigned in July, following the allegations of misconduct.

    A confidential report, leaked on Monday, said that top UNRWA officials, including Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, his senior adviser Maria Mohammedi, Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan and Mitchell, have engaged in nepotism, abuses of authority and sexual misconduct while performing their duties.

    On Wednesday, the Netherlands announced that it had frozen support to the UN agency until the completion of the investigation, following the similar move undertaken by the government of Switzerland a day before.


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