Confusion at MFAT over UNRWA funding


In a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing – MFAT officials seem to be conflicted over whether or not they have suspended payments to UNRWA pending a report on the activities of that Agency.

On Friday, 23 August the Israel Institute of New Zealand received an email from MFAT stating that:

“New Zealand will not make any further payments until we have reviewed the report’s findings and assessed UNRWA’s response to any recommendations.” New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This followed contributions of more than $10m over the past decade, without any public acknowledgement of serious allegations, and a recent report showing that MFAT staff didn’t brief Ministers on those issues – so the statement suspending funding until there was a review of UNRWAs response to the latest allegations of serious ethical abuses was well overdue and seemed almost too good to be true.

MFAT officials have now told the Jerusalem Post that funding has not been formally suspended after all, but rather that:

“the ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Service report once the investigation is complete and after that point provide advice to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The investigation is currently ongoing and it is not clear when the report will be completed or how long UNRWA will take to comply with any recommendations. New Zealand’s next payment to UNRWA is scheduled for March 2020.

The current OIOS investigation only concerns the most recent set of allegations. UNRWA has been repeatedly accused of corruption, inciting violence in schools, ties with terror, and perpetuating the conflict.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand obtained 119 pages of government documents under the Official Information Act which show that MFAT staff didn’t record meetings where such concerns were raised, repeated UNRWA excuses and explanations without challenge or any attempt at independent research, and there seemed to be political reasons for not acknowledging egregious failures within UNRWA.

The apparent backtrack of a reasonable suspension of donations is deeply disappointing. We have written to Minister Peters for clarification of New Zealand’s position, given the conflicting comments from his Ministry.