Donors pledge almost US$400 million for UNHCR programmes in 2007
GENEVA, December 11 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency announced in Geneva on Monday that it had received funding pledges of US$393.8 million for UNHCR operations next year - up more than 10 percent compared to the US$354.3 million pledged last year.
Delegates to UNHCR's annual pledging conference heard that the equivalent of about US$365.6 million was registered Monday in firm pledges, while a further US$28.2 million was pledged in writing before the meeting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The funds will allow UNHCR operations to continue uninterrupted into 2007.
UNHCR had presented a budget of US$1.06 billion for next year. "A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money but it is equivalent to just a dollar a week for each of the 21 million people we help," High Commissioner António Guterres said when the budget was announced late last week. "When you consider the huge needs of those fleeing the horrors of Darfur, Iraq and Somalia and those in protracted refugee situations like Thailand and Pakistan, it is really not a large sum of money."
The funds are needed to assist approximately 21 million people of concern to UNHCR around the world, including some 8.6 million refugees, 6.6 million internally displaced persons, some 1.6 million returnees, 770,000 asylum seekers and 2.3 million stateless people.
The largest programmes for 2007 are Chad (US$69 million), Afghanistan (US$52 million), Liberia (US$32 million), Kenya (US$32 million) and Tanzania (US$24.3 million).
Several donor representatives at the conference praised reform efforts by the High Commissioner aimed at making UNHCR more efficient and ensuring that more resources were allocated directly to helping refugees and other persons of concern to the agency.
"We are lowering costs and directing more resources to beneficiaries on the ground," Guterres said earlier. "But, as the number of people under our mandate grows and we do our job better, we also need the serious financial backing of a wider number of governments."
UNHCR's Global Appeal for US$1.06 billion compares to $1.15 billion the previous year. The refugee agency also expects to issue about a dozen supplementary appeals during 2007, including for Iraq and south Sudan. The total UNHCR budget for this year, including supplementary appeals, reached $1.47 billion.
As part of UNHCR's efforts to improve financial management, the High Commissioner has proposed a "fundable" budget for 2007, based on austerity measures implemented in 2006 and the expected levels of financial support from donors in 2007. "A budget that is fundable should turn into a budget that is funded," Guterres told the pledging conference.
With almost 97 percent of UNHCR's budget coming from voluntary donations and only 3 percent funded by the regular UN budget, the agency is extremely vulnerable to any reduction in funding by major donors.