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Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the High Commissioner's Programme (Pledging Conference), Geneva | Statement by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Speeches and statements

Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the High Commissioner's Programme (Pledging Conference), Geneva | Statement by Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

3 December 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here with you today. This pledging conference is an important occasion in UNHCR's annual life cycle.

Let me first say that I am grateful to donors for responding to my call at ExCom in October 2001 for "soft commitments". This provided my Office with a better picture of likely funding for 2002. But before we get to 2002, we need to ensure that we finish 2001 with a positive balance. Today there is still a shortfall of some US$ 34.5 million. There is an urgent need to receive this amount, in addition to the needs for Afghanistan.

There will be only a limited carry over next year, and this will be largely earmarked for specific programmes. Every year, it is vital that we have additional and primarily unearmarked funds at our disposal on 1 January, to be able to continue all our operations uninterrupted. Today's pledging conference offers an important opportunity to reach this goal.

For 2002, based on the projections currently available, there is still a shortfall of more than US$ 100 million against the ExCom approved Annual Budget of US$ 828 million. As you are aware, this budget will be revised with the addition of Supplementary Programmes, should new needs arise. I will elaborate on this point later. The question now is, how can we minimize the likely gap next year, and how can we ensure that we do not need to go through the same worries every year? That is the real challenge.

I hope that by the end of today we will be able to revise our projections for 2002 upwards. But even if this happens, we will still have to take a number of measures to broaden our donor base and to identify new sources of funding. I am also confident that our efforts in private sector and corporate fund raising will continue to produce results, however modest these may be in comparison with our overall budget. At the same time, I am keenly aware that there is still room for UNHCR to improve its performance. We need clear progress indicators and a better system of results-based budgeting. We also need to ensure that we have strong and effective partnerships with our sister UN agencies as well as NGOs.

I started Action 3 for several reasons. One was to improve the link between the budget approved by ExCom and the subsequent funding of that same budget. Another was to ensure that UNHCR as a global multilateral agency has appropriate funding mechanisms and a level of funding that corresponds to the needs of the people it is mandated to serve. I should emphasize in particular the importance of early unearmarked contributions. I look forward to your continued support in developing new ways to ensure predictable, reliable and adequate funding.

I am grateful for the useful exchange we had in last week's informal consultations on funding. I see these consultations as the beginning of a process which should ultimately help the international community to find the right balance between a "resource-driven" and a "needs-driven" budget. I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my deepest gratitude to the countries hosting large refugee populations. Their participation in the these consultations is essential. I hope that we will be able to find adequate ways to reflect their invaluable non-cash contributions in providing protection and solutions for refugees around the world.

Next year, Africa will continue to demand the greatest share of UNHCR's resources and attention. Several of the continent's most bitter conflicts are at a crossroads between peace and more war. We are ready to help refugees go home when the fragile peace processes open the way. But we must also be prepared for new displacement. I am very concerned about the continuation of conflict and political instability, for instance in the Great Lakes region.

In the coming year, UNHCR will move forward with several initiatives aimed at responding to the new and more complex environment for refugee protection. The Global Consultations on International Protection will continue until the middle of next year, when they will produce an Agenda for Protection for the coming years. On 12-13 December this year, the first ever Ministerial Meeting of States Parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention will take place in Geneva. I hope that it adopt a Ministerial Declaration. This will be a real milestone.

On the operational side, we are in the process of implementing a concrete plan of action for strengthening our emergency preparedness and response capacity, and we are also strengthening our staff security arrangements. Improving staff security costs money, even if the results are not immediately apparent in the same way as other activities described in the Global Appeal.

Since the adoption by ExCom of the 2002 Annual Budget, I have approved a number a Supplementary Programmes for next year. One of these, for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), was approved in time to be included in the 2002 Global Appeal. The Global Appeal thus stands at US$ 843.2 million. Other Special Programmes will be part of an Addendum to the Global Appeal. The Addendum will include programmes for East Timorese refugees in West Timor, for FYROM and for the Afghan crisis.

To sum up:

  • The Annual Budget is US$ 828.6 million.
  • Additional requirements for FYROM amount to US$ 14.6 million. These are included in the 2002 Global Appeal, bringing the total to US$ 843.2 million.
  • Not included in the 2002 Global Appeal are the Supplementary Programmes for West Timor and the Afghan crisis. The cost of the West Timor programme is US$ 5 million. Additional needs for the Afghan crisis for January to June 2002 amount to US$ 90 million. This is on top of the US$ 50 million required for the Afghan crisis from October to December 2001.
  • This brings the grand total for 2002, as it stands now, to US$ 938.1 million, of which US$ 109.5 million is for Supplementary Programmes.

I appeal to you to support these Supplementary Programmes generously. However, I must say a few words of caution. In the past, and again today in the context of the Afghan crisis, the funding of Supplementary Programmes has resulted in a decrease in funds for the Annual Programme, resulting in overall funding shortfalls. I would like to see that Supplementary Programmes are funded from truly additional funds, over and above what donors had planned to provide to UNHCR before the Supplementary Programme was established. If this is not the case, our Annual Programme activities will again need to be curtailed, with negative consequences for refugees and other people of concern.

It is important to be aware that we face two funding problems. First, there is a projected shortfall of more than US$ 100 million for the 2002 Annual Programme Budget. Second, there is the problem that Supplementary Programmes tend to be better funded than the Annual Budget. At the same time, it is clear that a Supplementary Programme in a so-called "hot spot" like Afghanistan today cannot be implemented without the infrastructure of the offices and country programmes in the region, as reflected in the Annual Budget. For this reason, in our Action Plan for Afghanistan we have included the Annual Programme in the region, and I trust that donors will be positive in responding to this.

As we head into 2002, we are challenged not only to find the resources to meet our Annual Budget of US$ 828 million, but also to find the resources for substantial Supplementary Programmes. In responding to these challenges, we will draw in an integrated way on both our human and financial resources. I hope our staff can rely on your continuing support.

I am grateful for the confidence that donors have put in my Office during the past year, as demonstrated through their strong financial support. But as you know, severe funding shortfalls have continued to plague us this year, despite serious efforts to make the budgetary process more transparent and to improve our system of resource management.

I ask you once again to provide my office with the resources we need to find solutions for the refugees who desperately need our help. I very much hope that this Global Appeal for 2002 will rally support from our friends and a renewed commitment to protecting refugees, meeting their vital needs and finding solutions.

Thank you.