By Miriam Bell…

New Zealand has not formally suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed on Monday.

However, MFAT is awaiting the results of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) investigation into UNRWA before it makes further payments to the agency.

MFAT clarified New Zealand’s current stance on the scandal plagued UNRWA in response to a report from the Israel Institute of New Zealand.

The Israel Institute recently produced a report looking at MFAT’s dealings with UNRWA, much of which is based on analysis of internal MFAT documents released under the Official Information Act.

It also looks at the ongoing allegations of misconduct, corruption, links to terror groups, a perpetuation of the Israel/Palestinian conflict and antisemitism directed at UNRWA.

After seeing the report, MFAT staff sent Israel Institute director Dr David Cumin a letter which said that “New Zealand will not make any further payments [to UNRWA] until we have reviewed the UN OIOS report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.”

Cumin was pleased by this move, saying it was great that New Zealand had suspended funding to UNRWA based on the recent allegations of corruption and abuse, and went public with the news.

But an MFAT spokesperson said that while New Zealand is aware of the allegations of ethical issues and mismanagement within UNRWA that came to light at the end of July, funding to UNRWA has not been formally suspended.

“We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the investigation under way and to report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations,” they said.

“The Ministry will review the findings of the UN OIOS report once the investigation is complete and, after that point, will provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

New Zealand’s next payment to UNRWA is currently scheduled for March 2020 but the UN OIOS investigation is due to be completed by the end of October 2019.

The MFAT spokesperson confirmed that New Zealand will not make any further payments to UNRWA until they have reviewed the report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.

Currently, New Zealand provides NZ$1 million in core funding to UNRWA each year. But, periodically, additional one-off humanitarian contributions to UNRWA’s emergency appeals are made.

According to MFAT, New Zealand has contributed a total of $2.5 million to UNRWA in the period January to June 2019.

The Israel Institute estimates that, over the past decade, New Zealand taxpayers have contributed over NZ$10 million and also that there was a commitment to a further $3 million over the next few years.

Read our article about MFAT and the Israel Institute’s report here. 

Read the Israel Institute’s report on New Zealand’s support for UNRWA here.