Red Cross Appoints Ex-UN Palestinian Refugee Director as New Head

Fri Dec 22 2023
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GENEVA: The Red Cross said on Friday that it had appointed Pierre Krahenbuhl, former chief of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, as is director-general.

The Swiss national, with more than thirty years of experience in the humanitarian sector, will take over in April, when current head Robert Mardini completes his four-year term.

It said in a statement that the Assembly of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has appointed Pierre Krahenbuhl as the organisation’s next director-general.

Krahenbuhl, 57, has spent twenty-five years in prominent roles at the ICRC and is currently serving as secretary-general to the ICRC assembly.

The statement said that he is recognised as a strategic and purpose-driven leader with vast organisational experience and dedication to the ICRC.

In 2014, Krahenbuhl was appointed commissioner-general of the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

He quit that position in 2019 amid an internal investigation into alleged mismanagement and ethical abuses at the organisation.

In the end, he was largely cleared of the charges.

The preliminary findings of that probe found “credible and corroborated” accusations of serious ethical abuses, but revealed no “fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krahenbuhl, the United Nations said at the time.

After quitting, Krahenbuhl himself described an atmosphere of “hyperpolarization” around the agency.

UNRWA at the time was facing relentless attacks by the administration of ex-US president Donald Trump, which along with Israel accused it of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2018, the US decided to suspend, then stop entirely its contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its largest donor and sparking a funding crunch.

US President Joe Biden’s administration later fully restored Washington’s support.

Red Cross’ problems

Krahenbuhl will be taking the charge of the ICRC as it grapples with its own funding shortage, which has forced it to make budget cuts and slash some 1,500 jobs.

The ICRC is also facing pressure over the Israeli-Palestinian war, and in particular its response to the war raging in Gaza.


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