Geneva — Faced with expanding humanitarian crises in the Middle East and parts of Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa, government donors today pledged US$550 million towards the work of the UN refugee agency in 2013 in helping millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people worldwide. An additional US$169 million was pledged for 2014 and beyond.
The amount represents a portion only of UNHCR's total budgetary needs for 2013, currently put at US$3.92 billion. However, it provides UNHCR with indicators both of the amount with which it can begin its work in 2013 and of likely overall resources for the coming year. By comparison, at the equivalent pledging session for 2012, donors pledged $482 million.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres thanked donors for their support:
"New humanitarian crises over the past months have created hundreds of thousands more refugees and internally displaced people," Guterres said. "This makes us especially grateful to donors who have come forward today with early pledges for our work in 2013. Given the environment we are all in of global economic worry, this is heartening."
The past 18 months have seen simultaneous major new displacement crises, including in the Syria region, Mali, South Sudan, and in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the same time, new demands on UNHCR have arisen - such as the need to help returns of displaced people in southern Yemen - while protracted displacement situations such as that in Afghanistan and Somalia have not gone away.
For the UN refugee agency, which relies almost entirely on voluntary donations, this has meant repeated upward revisions of budgets for several of its major operations as the numbers of displaced rise. A further additional appeal, for example, for the Syria situation is due in just a matter of days.
UNHCR's annual budget is based on a careful assessment of the needs of people of concern that the agency anticipates being capable of addressing. As in previous years, the organization's global refugee programme remains the largest component of its requirements - amounting to US$3.07 billion of the $3.92 billion (or: 78 %) needed with almost half the needs being in Africa.
Of the 42.5 million people who were forcibly displaced as of the end of 2011, 25.9 million were receiving protection and assistance from UNHCR. In addition to these populations are an estimated 12 million people worldwide who are stateless.