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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) New York | Statement by Mr. Gerald Hinteregger, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of UNHCR

Speeches and statements

Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the High Commissioner's Programme (Pledging Conference) New York | Statement by Mr. Gerald Hinteregger, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of UNHCR

20 November 1989

Mr. Chairman,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to address this annual pledging conference for UNHCR's programmes. As you know, following Secretary-General has appointed me as the Officer-in-Charge of UNHCR, from the beginning of this month. I will spare no efforts to discharge this important task to the best of my abilities until the new High Commissioner takes up his duties in the near future.

Six weeks ago, the fortieth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme reviewed a wide range of humanitarian issues of concern to all Governments represented here today. While reiterating its deep commitment to UNHCR's cause of protecting and assisting millions of refugees world-wide, the Executive Committee expressed great anxiety concerning the financial difficulties now being experienced by the Office.

Mr. Chairman,

The twelve months since the last UNHCR Pledging Conference have seen many major developments. In my address to the Third Committee last week, I had the opportunity to offer some comments on issues of particular importance and urgency for UNHCR in its protection and assistance work for refugees. Today, suffice it to recall that considerable progress has been made in the search for durable solutions; these include repatriation operations to Namibia, in Central America, between Angola and Zaire, while preparations for any eventual repatriation to Afghanistan are well advanced. An important repatriation movement from Somalia to Ethiopia is poised to begin. These achievements are paralleled by new outflows of refugees in South East Asia, in Africa and from Afghanistan. Many millions of long-term refugees continue to live in exile, waiting for a solution, dependent on the assistance of the international community for survival. These developments have called for greater financial resources. Despite continued strong donor support and a high level of contributions, income has not, unfortunately, kept pace with the programme funding requirement.

The forthieth Executive Committee approved a revised target for the 1989 General Programmes of $389 million. UNHCR anticipates that income against this target will be of some $349 million, leaving a shortfall of some $40 million. Of the projected income, some 296 are now in hand, while announcements of over $50 million are expected by the year-end. For 1990, in view of the severe funding constraints, the Executive Committee noted, rather than approved, as it has traditionally done, a General Programme target of $414 million.

To facilitate the delivery of essential protection and assistance to the end of 1989 and through the first half of 1990, the Executive Committee agreed to a mechanism whereby UNHCR may exceptionally carry-over up to a maximum of $40 million in unliquidated obligations from 1989 to 1990. This will be done on the understanding that, if no new funds are forthcoming, the carry-over will have to be fully absorbed during 1990, so that total expenditure under General Programmes by 31 December 1990 will not be in excess of usable income. Additionally, the Executive Committee requested that 1990 General Programme obligations entered into by UNHCR during the first six months of 1990 should not exceed $190 million, including 50 percent of the unliquidated obligations carried over from 1989.

As part of the mechanism agreed by the Executive Committee, a temporary Working Group composed of members and observers of the Executive Committee and UNHCR has been set up and has already started its work. The Group will review the content of UNHCR's General Programmes and other assistance activities and report to an extraordinary session of the Executive Committee in late May/early June 1990.

Regarding Special Programmes, the needs foreseen at this time for 1990 amount to $65 million, for the continuation of on-going operations and for food aid. For 1989, funds totalling an additional $20 million are still required for essential operational activities, as I mentioned last week at the Third Committee, and early pledges are urgently called for.

Mr. Chairman,

The importance of the mandate of UNHCR, and the volume of the work which it is charged to undertake, deserve the strongest support of all governments. The year 1989 has seen the unfolding of an unprecedented financial crisis; it can be foreseen, with no unjustified pessimism, that it will take some time for the situation to improve significantly. The first six months of 1990 are likely to be the most critical period for the Office of UNHCR. The new High Commissioner will be faced with crucial choices of priority and will have to address policy issues relating to such options. It is important to give him the means to allow essential programmes to continue. UNHCR, on its part, is already actively engaged in the search for funds in areas other than the traditional governmental sources, including the private sector.

I appeal to you today to ensure that adequate funds are made available to complete, in a timely way, the commitments of the Office for 1989. I earnestly urge you to announce now contributions to guarantee the confident implementation of the 1990 while making way for the absorption of any 1989 shortfall. I also appeal that all outstanding contributions be paid as rapidly as possible - some $45 million is still unpaid for 1989 and prior years. Every effort should be made for 1990 pledges to be settled early in the new year and thus to avoid creating a liquidity problem.

Your financial contributions over the years have been most generous and, as the Officer-in-Charge of UNHCR, I thank you most sincerely for that on behalf of the Office. But the emergency situation in which the Office now finds itself represents a great challenge, and demands of us all an effort greater than ever before. I therefore request that you continue to contribute, immediately and throughout the coming year, to the strong financial backing required to provide essential protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees. Only with your full and dedicated commitment can we fulfil the mandate entrusted to UNHCR and serve the millions of refugees exiled in today's troubled world. Thank you Mr. Chairman.