‘No substitute’ for UNRWA’s lifesaving work in Gaza: Senior Humanitarian Coordinator
UN Photo/Manuel Elías Sigrid Kaag | UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, briefs reporters following consultations with the Security Council.
United Nations, 30 January 2024
No organization can be a substitute for the UN agency assisting Palestinians, UNRWA, in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, the Organization’s senior coordinator for the enclave said on Tuesday.
Apart from a political decision, which would have to be made by the General Assembly, “there is no way any organization can replace or substitute the tremendous capacity and the fabric of UNRWA and its ability and knowledge,” Sigrid Kaag, Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, told correspondents at a stakeout outside the Security Council Chamber in New York.
She also noted the key role the agency has played over decades, before the current conflict, in education, healthcare and other services. UNRWA was established by the General Assembly in December 1949.
UNRWA’s operations are in jeopardy after several donor countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, suspended funding in the wake of extremely serious allegations that several of its staff were involved in the 7 October terror attacks in Israel.
The Organization has initiated an investigation, and the Secretary-General has reiterated that any employee found to be involved will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.
Ms. Kaag’s remarks to the press followed her first closed-door briefing to the Security Council since taking up her key coordination role pursuant to Council resolution 2720 (2023).
Her mandate is to facilitate, coordinate, monitor and verify humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza as well as establish a UN mechanism to accelerate humanitarian relief shipments to the enclave through States which are not party to the conflict.
Ms. Kaag underscored that the success of her mandate “is about the ability to achieve and meet the needs” of the civilians in Gaza.
“That is the only indicator, as far as I am concerned.”
Challenges on the ground
Ms. Kaag emphasized that the absence of a humanitarian ceasefire is hampering aid efforts and causing delays.
“Currently, there is no space, given the fact that there is no ceasefire there and the conflict is raging. There is no space to have monitors all over Gaza to work with the agencies to see, to verify and monitor.”
She also reiterated the importance of increasing the flow of commercial goods into Gaza in addition to humanitarian assistance.
“Commercial goods need to be allowed back in,” she said. “There will be no recovery, let alone reconstruction in future, without that broad bandwidth.”
Ms. Kaag of the Netherlands has held a wide range of senior positions in the UN system. She was appointed by the Secretary-General on 26 December 2023 and began her assignment on 8 January.
She was Special Coordinator for Lebanon from 2015 to 2017 and from 2013 to 2015, the head of the Joint UN-Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Mission in Syria.
She also served as Assistant Secretary-General with the UN Development Programme (2010-13) and was UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (2007-10).
Prior to that, Ms. Kaag held several senior positions with the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNRWA.
She speaks fluent Arabic and five other languages.
She also held many senior roles in the Dutch Government, including as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
The original article appeared here.