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Statement by Mr. Poul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the High Commissioner's Programme (Pledging Conference), 15 November 1985

Speeches and statements

Statement by Mr. Poul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the High Commissioner's Programme (Pledging Conference), 15 November 1985

15 November 1985

Mr. Chairman,

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to address this Pledging Conference on the 1986 programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr. Chairman,

Nobody can deny that 1985 has been a difficult year in refugee assistance terms. Difficult for the donors who have had enormous unforeseen financial demands made upon them, difficult for the countries of asylum who have acted magnificently in providing welcome and shelter to those persons in need who came into their countries but difficult - most difficult of all - for the refugees.

In 1985, Mr. Chairman, for the first time in its history, UNHCR may not be able to finance its General Programmes in full. In view of the lack of funds, we have had to cut back of delay some of our activities. Fortunately, the physical survival of refugees is not at risk, but the achievement of durable solutions to their problems is in danger if additional contributions are not forthcoming.

In 1985, the African Emergency programmes have required very considerable financing and the funding of the UNHCR General Programmes has unfortunately suffered. Today, there is still a shortfall of 36 million dollars against the 1985 General Programmes requirements. We still need 14 million dollars to fund the 1985 African Emergency Special Programmes.

However, Mr. Chairman, I should not be too negative. In total contribution terms the response of donors to UNHCR's requirements this year has been very good indeed. The requirements have been very large and the available resources limited. Donors have, however, responded with great generosity and I am deeply grateful for the considerable support we have received - even if we may not be able to cover the identified needs completely.

Mr. Chairman, refugee needs continue and we must look towards 1986. UNHCR's General Programmes - our first priority - require 330 million dollars in 1986. I sincerely hope that donors will enable UNHCR to meet those needs. The General Programmes cover ongoing assistance to refugees throughout the world from emergency help to finding durable solutions. The refugees have no other source of help and UNHCR assistance is of basic importance to them. Our aim is to be as economic and cost-effective as possible while fulfilling the Mandate which the member states in the General Assembly have given to UNHCR.

In addition to the General Programmes need of 330 million dollars, Special Programmes of assistance to persons of concern to UNHCR - programmes such as the Refugees Education Account, the South-East Asia Anti-Piracy programme, the Orderly Departure Programme and assistance to returnees and others in Africa and Asia may require a further 100 million dollars.

UNHCR's total financial requirement in 1986 is, therefore, expected to be in the region of 430 million dollars.

The needs in Africa are massive, particularly in the countries of the Horn of Africa and the Sudan which have suffered the savage effects of drought and famine. Our aim in 1986 is to help the refugees in those countries to start on the road to recovery and self-sufficiency. In Pakistan the Afghan refugees require a great deal of help, particularly to develop further the programmes of income generation which have begun this year. In South-East Asia, refugees in Thailand and other countries of the region require continued assistance while durable solutions are pursued. In Central America, thousands of refugees first of all in Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico must be helped towards self-sufficiency where that is possible and, failing that, must be given reasonable care and maintenance.

The UNHCR Executive Committee at its last formal session in Geneva in October of this year expressed its deep concern at the financial crisis affecting UNHCR's programmes both now and for the future. With particular reference to the basically important General Programmes, while I greatly appreciate the generosity of our donors, I would issue a strong and urgent appeal to governments on four points.

One, to increase their levels of contributions so that refugees will get the help they need and deserve.

Two, to allocate or reserve contributions to UNHCR's General Programmes so that assistance to refugees who depend on UNHCR will not be damaged and disrupted.

Three, to those Governments who make only small or no contribution to UNHCR, I ask you to begin to contribute now. The refugee problem is universal and, in all fairness, deserves universal support.

Four, to all Governments who announce pledges today or in the coming weeks, I would ask you to make payment of your contributions as soon as possible so that refugee assistance can be implemented in a cost-effective and uninterrupted manner.

Mr. Chairman,

Since I became High Commissioner in 1976, UNHCR has received some 2.7 billion dollars in voluntary contributions. While I view that figure with some pride and with great gratitude for such tremendous support, I cannot avoid expressing sadness that events in the world have created - and continue to create - such enormous needs. UNHCR tries its hardest to use the funds given to it wisely, economically and effectively. On this occasion, therefore, I would appeal in the most direct and urgent was to governments and to the international community to continue and to increase their financial support to UNHCR - particularly for the 1986 programmes so that refugees will receive the vital help they need. Only with that help can they survive and rebuild their lives in a decent fashion and with basic human dignity.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.