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Monday, January 17, 2011

Two top UNRWA officials resign

From Ma'an:
The directors of the UN's Palestine refugee operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank resigned Monday morning, an UNRWA spokesman said.

Adnan Abu Hasna said Barbara Shenstone, the West Bank director, and John Ging, based in the Gaza Strip, were stepping down.
UNRWA says:
John Ging is to take up a senior position in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in New York and Ms Shenstone is to return to her native Canada.
This creates more questions than it answers. Two resignations on the same day seems unlikely to be coincidental. UNRWA will furiously spin this to make it appear that this does not indicate a problem at the agency.

UNRWA is far from transparent, especially given that it gets all of its funds from the nations of the world. For example, it never acknowledged the UNRWA West Bank workers' strike that started last October.

It is likely that the UNRWA strike is what caused Shenstone to resign. Here is an editorial in Ma'an calling for her to do exactly that in December:

The events of the past month show Shenstone as a stubborn leader, tough and determined to act on principle. It seems, however, that she has also taken the matter personally, and is exacting a grudge without feeling the responsibility for the loss of UNRWA services to Palestinians.

As a result, many notable figures in the country have asked her to leave the West Bank and return home. We have enough extremists and we do not need her. It would be better if she worked in the UN Archives.

While Shenstone has all the credentials of a good leader, she lacks wise management skills. This became apparent as we watched her react to the workers on strike.

On Sunday she described the demands of the workers as "absurd," and said it revolved around a demand that workers be "paid hourly wages they didn't receive the last time they went on strike, and we're not willing to do that."

Since the start of the strike, 56,000 children in UNRWA schools are wandering the streets waiting for Shenstone to act generously and give up her pride and cede the demands of the union.

Thirty clinics in 19 refugee camps shut down, patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, sick children are suffering and piles of rank garbage are collecting in the streets, while Shenstone moved her administrative offices to the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem and rejected mediation efforts from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and other lawmakers. She has divorced herself from reality.

Even if the union is in the wrong, Shenstone's insistence on carrying out this stupidity is a crime against the children of the camps and their parents. We need leaders who work miracles and ensure that children in the camps are helped in whatever way they can be, we do not need suborn leaders.

Residents, planning action in support of the union, have prepared signs with Shenstone's photo, and the words "Go back to your country, you are persona non grata."


Let's hope that Ging and/or Shenstone will start talking about how things really are at UNRWA, the way that James Lindsay did after he left the agency.