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UNHCR receives early funding pledges from main donors

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UNHCR receives early funding pledges from main donors

15 December 2000

UNHCR was promised nearly one-fourth of its 2001 budget on Friday when several donor governments pledged US$214.7 million during the launch of the agency's annual global appeal. Another $23 million had been pledged earlier.

The pledges follow hard lobbying by UNHCR's outgoing High Commissioner, Sadako Ogata, who repeatedly warned donors that underfunding jeopardised the essence of UNHCR's work.

"We see the pledges as a sign of recognition for Mrs. Ogata and an indication of support for the incoming High Commissioner, Ruud Lubbers," said Michel Gabaudan, the head of UNHCR's fundraising department.

The United States topped the list of donations with $125 million, followed by Sweden with $40 million, the Netherlands with $23 million and Norway with $18 million. The other major donors included Denmark with $14.5 million and Switzerland which donated $8 million. Other major donors indicated that they would make pledges later.

UNHCR needs a total of $953.7 million* next year to help and protect more than 22 million people driven from their homes or otherwise affected by war, violence and contempt for basic human and civil rights around the globe.

The 50-year-old agency, with 5,000 staff and hundreds of offices on five continents, looks after refugees and people displaced within their own countries as well as impoverished communities which host large refugee populations. It also helps those who have returned to their shattered homes but who could not survive without aid.

UNHCR heavily depends on voluntary donations. Only about 2 percent of the agency's annual budget is covered by regular contributions from the UN system. Most of the donations have traditionally come from the governments of 14 industrialised nations, led by the United States.

Contributions to UNHCR from non-government sources have risen threefold over the past few years, from about $10 million in 1997 to $35 million in 1999. But non-government sources still account for only a tiny percentage of the agency's funding.

The largest single portion of UNHCR's 2001 global appeal - more than $255 million - is destined for the agency's work in sub-Saharan Africa. UNHCR handles a string of protracted refugee and internal displacement crises on the continent, from Tanzania and Burundi to the Horn of Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Congos and Angola.

The second largest chunk of UNHCR's budget - nearly $139 million - will go to the agency's Balkan operations, which cover continued involvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well UNHCR programmes in Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia hosts the Balkans' largest refugee population. Some $100 million are to be spent in Asia, where UNHCR is involved in a number of countries, from strife torn Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, Pakistan, East Timor and Indonesia.

* The actual "Global Appeal" cites the figure of US$ 917.5 million, but an additional US $36.2 million, earmarked for the Angola Eritrea programmes, has been added to the original amount.