Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 1st 2014 Contents Chris Gunness with his father Robert. PHOTO COURTESY CHRIS GUNNESS
The moment that went viral: UN Relief and Works Agency director Chris Gunness broke down and cried
during an Al Jazeera interview after the Israelis bombed a UN shelter in Jabaliya and 20 people were killed.
PHOTO COURTESY AL JAZEERA
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, October 1, 2014
T REASON TO CELEBRATE
CONTINUES FROM PAGE A29
He finally left the BBC in 2005
and admits to a kind of love/hate
relationship with it.
"I had a good innings at the
Beeb and won my share of jour-
nalism awards. But ultimately I
found it unsatisfying...Little sur-
prise that I worked on five BBC
programmes that were axed by the
men in grey suits," he says. "I
always say the two happiest days
of my life were the day I joined
the BBC and the day I left. The
BBC is like a member of my family:
I m allowed to bitch about them,
but no one else is."
He rejoined the UN in 2005,
moving to the Middle East to work
for UNWRA, whose remit is
human development work and
In some ways, being a Trini has
helped in his career, even if sub-
"I love the fact that whereas so
many people in the UN come from
Britain or America or the Perma-
nent Five (members of the UN
Security Council), I was born in a
small island state. Admittedly I
left, but a lot of people leave
Trinidad, because that s what hap-
pens. It remains a place with a
huge draw for me."
Palestine s refugees are now his
"My passion has perhaps
marked me out from the usual
image of the UN bureaucrat. I did
cry on camera. I spoke out and
cracked. People were at last con-
vinced that the outrage and indig-
nation of the UN against these
injustices was visceral and genuine.
I make no apologies for my
Five hundred children were killed
in the latest conflict---an average
of ten a day. That horrifies Gunness
and he is relentless in his deter-
mination to improve the conditions
and ease the pressures on children
in Gaza, where even basic human
rights like going to school are a
battle frequently lost because so
many schools are damaged or
In an article he wrote for the
Israeli newspaper Haaretz last
week, Gunness made an impas-
sioned plea for the removal of the
blockade on Gaza which impedes
UNWRA from doing its job.
"UNWRA has a plan to rebuild
Gaza in two years. We need to get
in 900 trucks a day. We can do it,
but we need simple things like the
Karni Crossing to be reopened.
They built a 30-lane crossing for
traffic in both directions, but it
Describing the blockade, Gun-
ness says, "Imagine a place which
has seven times the (daytime) pop-
ulation of Port-of-Spain (and its
environs). That s 1.8 million people
in a strip 40 km long."
That s equivalent to the distance
from Chaguaramas to Arima con-
taining the entire population of
T&T plus another half a million
people crammed in.
"And then imagine you built a
fence around it and you had one
crossing for human beings and
another crossing for goods.
"Then imagine you had an army
patrolling the perimeter fence con-
trolling everything that goes in and
out, including exports, which have
trickled to a virtual minimum, and
imports, which are a few hundred
trucks a day---sometimes cement,
Jerusalem is caught in an eternal
struggle with the violence around
it. He describes it as: "A clearly
divided city, with the west side
being privileged and the east with
garbage in the streets and the set-
tlements, which mean you feel the
sense of hatred quite palpably,
especially on Fridays when the
Palestinians go to the Al-Aqsa
mosque and the Jews go off to the
Wailing Wall to pray."
He doesn t socialise a lot, he
says, adding that he mostly hangs
out with and talks to "interna-
tionalist, leftward-leaning, cam-
But even in a divided city he s
"I m very happy in my private
life. I live with my partner very
happily. We have no children, but
being an uncle is the best occu-
pation in the world. I run every
day. I love music, particularly
baroque opera. I play the violin---
my therapy. And my partner and
I are making a film about the
Burmese 88 revolution."
In the July 2014 conflict:
• 65 UNRWA schools were hit directly or indirectly.
• 60,000 houses were damaged of which 20,000 are uninhabitable
(71,000 homes already needed repair or rebuilding before the
• The majority of Gaza's 110,000 homeless people are children.
• Almost every child in Gaza has a sibling, parent, family member or
friend who was killed, injured or maimed for life.
• Out of 3,000 children wounded, 1,000 will have physical
disabilities for life.
• Every child over six in Gaza has lived through three such wars.
GAZA UNDER SIEGE
"I always say the two
happiest days of my life
were the day I joined the
BBC and the day I left. The
BBC is like a member of my
family: I'm allowed to bitch
about them, but no one else
'No apologies for my humanity'
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