New corporate investment scheme to support UNHCR's earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan

UNHCR has welcomed a radically new approach towards raising funds for emergency relief work. The corporate and investment banking arm of Société Générale in partnership with the Swiss derivatives company, derilab, on Tuesday launched a new financial product which will preserve all of the initially invested capital, while raising money for the UN refugees agency's earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan.

The Société Générale-derilab scheme will help raise funds for Pakistan earthquake survivors, like these, in camps in Muzaffarabad.   © UNHCR/B.Baloch

GENEVA, Apr 4 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has teamed up with Société Générale Corporate & Investment Banking based in Zurich and derilab s.a., a Swiss derivatives company, to launch an investment scheme which will help raise funds for UNHCR's earthquake relief operation in Pakistan.

The scheme, the Kashmir Relief Note, will allow investors to participate in a financial product which gives them a unique opportunity to support UNHCR's reconstruction and relief effort in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, hit by a devastating earthquake on 8 October 2005. Moreover, because the investments will be based in Asia, it will for the first time enable people investing in one area to support a humanitarian emergency taking place in the same region.

At inception, 2% of the investment is automatically donated to UNHCR's earthquake relief operations. This means that for the relatively small minimum investment of US$10,000, the UN refugee agency will receive $200, which is enough to buy two tents for two families of five.

The rest is invested through a basket of funds in the Indian sub-continent. At maturity, the investor will receive 100% of his invested capital and participate in the positive performance of the underlying basket.

This initiative is part of a strategic move by the UN refugee agency to broaden its donor network and engage in innovative fund raising activities by entering the capital market to raise funds for refugees.

"As UNHCR is 97 per cent funded by voluntary contributions, every single year we have to go out to donors and find US$1.5 billion of contributions in order to keep refugees alive. That's a big job, a big challenge and companies like derilab s.a. and Société Générale Corporate & Investment Banking are helping us find new ways to do that," said Pierre-Bernard Le Bas, Head of UNHCR's Private Sector Fund Raising Unit.

Under the leadership of High Commissioner, António Guterres, UNHCR has set a very aggressive target for private sector fund raising in the coming years. By 2012, the UN refugee agency would like to raise 10 per cent of its annual budget from the private sector.

In Pakistan, UNHCR has helped with the running of some 160 relief camps which have been home to over 140,000 survivors of the earthquake during the freezing winter months.

With the arrival of spring, many thousands of families are leaving these camps and returning to their home villages. Still living in tents, they sleep each night beside the huge piles of rubble which are all that remain of their former homes. Rebuilding these mounds of stone and brick into new houses is part of the enormous challenge they now face.

To help people survive the tough conditions, UNHCR has distributed blankets, plastic sheeting, tents and stoves. But much more is needed to assist survivors in the reconstruction phase and in their return to normality.