1. In 1966, the Executive Committee decided to establish a Refugee Education Account outside its regular programme. Underlying this initiative was the concern to assure a more consistent and focused approach to refugee education. Over the years, the terms of reference of the Account evolved. Since 1990, its principal purpose has been to fund university/tertiary education. In the period 1991-1993, some 1,800 students per year benefited from the Education Account. In late 1993, it became evident that contributions to the Education Account would not be sufficient to maintain the programme for tertiary refugee students at existing levels. UNHCR Field Offices were instructed not to accept new students for studies to be funded through the Education Account. (It will be recalled, however, that since 1992, funds were available to enable refugee students to pursue university/higher education courses through DAFI (the Albert Einstein Refugee Initiative) sponsored by the German Government.) An appeal was issued in January 1994 to replenish the Education Account so as to cover the needs of some 1,200 ongoing students. In June 1994, a further appeal was issued; this sought to attract funding for the Account by broadening the range of initiatives (to include para-professional and vocational training) which might be funded under the Education Account. At the last annual session of the Executive Committee (October 1994), a paper was presented on the Education Account (EC/SC.2/69) which, inter alia, sought endorsement for this broader use of the Account. The Executive Committee approved this broader use.
2. The response to date to the appeal issued in June 1994 and all subsequent efforts to replenish the Education Account has not only precluded the extension of its use for the purposes approved at the last Executive Committee, but is still insufficient to fund the continuation to completion of university/tertiary education for the ongoing students, now numbering some 800.
3. As sufficient funds are no longer available in the Education Account, the immediate problem is to decide what to do about those students who are currently engaged in a course of tertiary studies hitherto funded through the Education Account. The number of such students is diminishing, as UNHCR ceased funding new students under the Education Account in December 1993.
The numbers of students under the Account who would still require assistance, and the resources required are as follows:
1995 800 students $ 1.7 million
1996 500 students $ 1.0 million
1997 250 students $ 0.5 million
These figures and related resources update those found in document A/AC.96/845/Part I. In view of the funds carried over from 1994 under the Education Account, and contributions received, the outstanding requirements for 1995 amount to $ 0.8 million.
4. In order to address this issue, there are three theoretical options:
Option 1: The Office would discontinue assistance to the refugee students.
Comment: This option would mean that the investment already made in these students would be lost; in addition to the disappointment and hardship which the students would suffer, the Office feels a moral obligation to assist these students complete their studies.
Option 2: The Office would seek to obtain further trust funds to replenish the Education Account.
Comment: While the Office is committed to seeking further funds for the Education Account, its lack of notable success to date in this regard would suggest that this second option does not provide a realistic base for planning purposes.
Option 3: The Office would be allowed, exceptionally, to charge to General Programmes, the expenditure still to be incurred in relation to these students, and which cannot be met through the Education Account.
Comment: UNHCR supports this option. If this is accepted, UNHCR would still continue its efforts to obtain contributions to the Education Account, as well as explore ways for funding under a similar trust fund (e.g., DAFI), for these students. The Office would report to the Executive Committee on expenditure that nevertheless had to be incurred under the General Programmes for this remaining group of tertiary students. UNHCR, in favouring the third option, is also conscious of the need to have some predictability as to the source of funding for these students, should they be allowed to continue their studies.
The Office of the High Commissioner would appreciate the guidance of the Executive Committee on this matter.