Ireland's annual funding to UNHCR tops US$20 million for first time

News Stories, 4 April 2007

© UNHCR/S.O'Brien
Ireland's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Conor Lenihan (centre) with Muslim children from a Dublin school after announcing increased funds for UNHCR and other UN agencies.

DUBLIN, Ireland, April 4 (UNHCR) Ireland's annual contribution to UNHCR and its work has topped US$20 million for the first time with the announcement this week that it will give the agency US$16.9 million in core funding this year.

The amount is up 30 percent from last year's US$12.3 million and brings Ireland's contribution to UNHCR this year to US$22.7 million. Ireland, which also announced a new strategic partnership with its three top United Nations partners, had already donated funds to UNHCR for special appeals and through the UN.

Irish Aid, the government's overseas development funding agency, said here Tuesday that overall core funding to UN programmes, including those run by UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), would climb from 62.9 million euros (US$84 million) in 2006 to 86.44 million euros (US$115.4 million) this year.

Ireland has more than quadrupled its funding to the UN refugee agency's programmes in the last decade and the small European nation was UNHCR's sixteenth largest donor last year.

Before Tuesday's announcement, Ireland had earlier this year donated some US$5.82 million to UNHCR. Some of this came in response to a joint UN appeal for programmes in Burundi, West Africa, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, and the Great Lakes Region and some was for other UNHCR operational needs.

"It's a remarkable effort by Ireland to help refugees and others under our care," said Emilie Wiinblad Mathez, officer-in-charge at UNHCR's Ireland mission.

The UNHCR representation in Ireland also welcomed news that Ireland was now the sixth largest aid donor per capita globally, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In contrast to the reported fall in aid to developing countries globally last year, down 5.1% to US$103.9 billion, the OECD's Development Assistance Committee said Ireland had made a stunning leap and recorded the largest international increase in its aid budget up 33.7 percent last year. This year, according to Irish Aid, Ireland is expected to spend more than 815 million euros (US$1 billion) on official development assistance.

Announcing the new funding, Irish Minister of State Conor Lenihan praised the effectiveness of UN agencies in meeting Irish Aid priorities on the ground. "The partnerships that we are putting in place are about making our funding more predictable and ensuring that it is used strategically," he added.

According to Irish Aid, the new partnerships aim to encourage a streamlined UN family and will emphasise efficiency and coherence. "We are making our contribution to the UN as effective as possible and ensuring better value for money for the Irish taxpayer," Lenihan said.

By Steven O'Brien in Dublin, Ireland