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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Funding and Budget

UNHCR Fundraising Reports, 1 December 1998

UNHCR relies almost exclusively on voluntary contributions to cover the costs of its operations. Although a limited subsidy from the Regular Budget of the United Nations covers some 200 administrative staff salaries, representing approximately two per cent of UNHCR's total budget, the agency must raise 98 per cent of its financial requirements each year. This dependence on voluntary funds, coupled with unforeseen refugee crises, often results in funding shortages which have direct, negative affects on UNHCR's activities and on the individuals protected under its mandate. This year, UNHCR is seeking contributions of US$ 914.8 million to fund its 1999 activities. The requirements are based on careful assessments of the needs of refugees and others of concern to the Office. Programmes have also been prioritized to obtain the maximum impact from limited resources.


UNHCR's budget peaked in 1994, when its requirements exceeded US$ 1.4 billion. After some years of rapid growth in the geographical spread of its operations and in the range of its activities, UNHCR is now reducing its budgets and its staff. The agency is able to accomplish these reductions because several repatriations have recently been completed and because there have been fewer large-scale refugee emergencies in the past couple of years.


Government Donors

Though UNHCR receives contributions from governments, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs and individuals, most of its funding is provided by fifteen donors 14 Governments and the European Commission. In 1997, the top fifteen donors provided 97 per cent of the funding. Given the potential constraints of relying on such a small donor base, UNHCR is constantly seeking ways to enlarge its circle of donors.

Private Donors

UNHCR receives financial support from the private sector, which includes the general public, corporations, foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In response to the agency's ongoing fund-raising efforts in a number of countries and to current appeals, such as the Kosovo emergency, UNHCR expects to receive approximately US$ 9 million from the private sector in 1998. (The agency raised US$ 8.8 million in 1997.) Most of these funds were raised by UNHCR's offices in Japan and Italy as well as by national associations such as España con ACNUR in Spain.

NGOs are important partners for UNHCR in private-sector fund-raising. While they traditionally implement UNHCR's programmes in the field, they also contribute to UNHCR's annual budget by making public appeals on behalf of UNHCR for operations such as those in Kosovo and Liberia. NGOs that assist UNHCR in this manner include the Deutsche Stiftung in Germany and the Stichting Vluchteling in the Netherlands. Over the past few years, contributions from the private sector and NGOs have declined. This decrease is partly explained by the fact that UNHCR is involved in fewer high-profile emergency operations which tend to generate increased support from the public.

Quality and Quantity of Funding

The quantity of funding is, of course, important; but no less important is the quality of funding its predictability, flexibility and timeliness. Too often, UNHCR has to begin operations without knowing when it can expect funding for those programmes or whether pledges for funds will come with conditions attached. As a result, UNHCR must often slow down or even interrupt an operation when funds are not forthcoming.

Early and predictable financial support helps UNHCR plan its activities. Flexible funding allows UNHCR to use its financial resources efficiently and effectively. Tight earmarking limits UNHCR's independence and weakens its coordinating role, in which it sets standards, identifies and fills gaps in protection and assistance programmes, prevents duplication of efforts and promotes the most effective interventions.

Contributions in-kind

In-kind contributions, in the form of goods or services such as food, medicine, tools, self-contained trucking-fleets, aircraft, air crews, logistics personnel and other specialised staff, complement UNHCR's limited resources, especially in complex emergencies. However, these contributions must be appropriate to the situation. Further, there must be a clear understanding between the donor and UNHCR of the appropriate procedures to be followed so that maximum benefit is gained from the donor's contribution. A guideline on in-kind contributions has been shared with donors and can be obtained from the Funding and Donor Relations Service.

UNHCR's Budget

UNHCR's activities are divided into two types of programmes General Programmes and Special Programmes both of which are dependent on voluntary donor funding. The General Programmes mainly represent activities that care for refugees while they are in exile. Included under General Programmes are the Programme Reserve, the Emergency Fund, and the Voluntary Repatriation Fund. A contribution from United Nations Regular Budget covers the costs for 200 administrative posts at UNHCR's Headquarters. Special Programmes are initiated by the High Commissioner for persons who fall outside of the traditional refugee mandate. These include, for example, internally displaced persons, victims of war, and returnees. Special Programmes are also used for assistance and protection operations during an emergency or in unstable conditions. Consultations with members of the Executive Committee are underway with a view to revising the present budget structure. A prototype of the proposed new budget will be presented to the 1999 meeting of the Executive Committee.

UNHCR's operational projects are classified by type of assistance (Emergency, Care and Maintenance, Voluntary Repatriation, Local Settlement and Resettlement), and project budgets are broken down to four budgetary levels (sector, activity, item and sub-item). A brief description of the main activities covered under each of UNHCR's 16 sectors is provided below.

Food: covers the procurement of food commodities not provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), and any related processing/testing.

Transport/Logistics: covers in-country and international transport of refugees/returnees and of food and other items, as well as storage and distribution services, the construction, operation and maintenance of warehouses and mechanical workshops, in-country customs/harbour clearance, handling and in-transit storage costs, and road construction (outside camps).

Domestic Needs/Household Support: covers the cost of cooking/heating/lighting fuel (charcoal, wood, kerosene, etc.) and household goods (blankets, cloth, cooking pots and ustensils, cooking stoves, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, etc.)

Water: covers the development and construction all non-agricultural water supply systems and the costs of running and operating water supply systems and any water trucking operations.

Sanitation: covers human and solid/hospital waste and vector/pest control activities (e.g. the construction and maintenance of latrines and related facilities, spraying of human waste control areas, general and hospital garbage disposal, etc.) and any other measures required to control vectors and/or pests.

Health/Nutrition: covers the construction, operation and maintenance of health/nutrition facilities and the costs for general health services (drugs, medical supplies and equipment, family planning costs, etc.). Also covers support to national governmental or non-governmental health institutions which provide services to refugees (e.g. the provision of equipment to a hospital or a grant-in-aid to a clinic) and various other health/nutrition activities (e.g. dental or physical rehabilitation services) and direct medical assistance to individual refugees and their families (e.g. medical referral, treatment costs or medical examination costs).

Shelter/Other Infrastructure: covers land and site preparation for refugee shelter(s) and infrastructure. Also covers the costs of tents, pre-fabricated buildings/structures and the construction of refugee housing, as well as direct assistance to individual refugees and their families (frequently urban beneficiaries) such as rental/housing allowances.

Community Services: covers services and activities (e.g. counselling and mental health and community services) for specified vulnerable groups (unaccompanied minors, children, women, single parents, elderly, disabled) and the costs of providing social-work services for individuals and families.

Education: covers the construction, operating and maintenance costs of schools, classrooms, vocational training centres and related facilities for UNHCR-supported primary, secondary and post-secondary education, and the cost of relevant educational materials. Also covers scholarships to attend local schools, and vocational/skills training.

Crop Production/Livestock/Fisheries/Forestry: these four sectors cover large-scale agricultural programmes for
refugees in rural areas and small-scale gardening, livestock, fishery, tree planting, etc. activities for groups of refugees engaged in peripheral or supplementary agricultural activities.

Income-Generation: covers employment and labour-insertion activities such as the cost of placing refugees in ongoing local commercial concerns, including incentives to agencies or employers and small-business assistance, and the provision of grants, equipment, supplies/materials as well as technical advice to establish small refugee-owned businesses.

Legal Assistance/Protection: covers the costs of refugee registration, legal representation, refugee documentation, bio-data systems, tracing, ID cards/papers, etc. in relation to providing protection and/or achieving durable solutions. Also covers costs related to the training/orientation of government officials and non-governmental organization staff to promote refugee law and its favourable application to refugees and asylum-seekers.

Agency Operational Support: covers implementing partner administrative and management costs which cover more than one sector and which relate to the whole project.

Programme Delivery (PD) activities cover the broad spectrum of UNHCR activities, from providing international protection and promoting or searching for durable solutions to providing different forms of material assistance.

Administration Support (AS) activities support the "Programme" of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees by providing services such as finance, personnel, information systems, telecommunications and general services, and through activities such as evaluation, administration, training, etc.

Top 15 donors over the past five years

United States of America,
European Commission,
The Netherlands,
United Kingdom,




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