UN refugee agency receives $214.7 million in early funding pledges for 2001
The United States topped the list of donations with $125 million, followed by Sweden with $40 million, the Netherlands with $23 million and Norway with $18 million. The pledges followed hard lobbying by UNHCR's outgoing High Commissioner, Sadako Ogata, who repeatedly warned donors that underfunding jeopardized the essence of the organization's work.
"We see the pledges as a sign of recognition for Mrs. Ogata and an indication of support for the incoming High Commissioner, Ruud Lubbers," said Michel Gabaudan, the head of the agency's fundraising department.
The largest single portion of the appeal - more than $255 million - is destined for the agency's work in sub-Saharan Africa, where UNHCR handles a string of protracted refugee and internal displacement crises, from Tanzania and Burundi to the Horn of Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Congos and Angola. The second largest chunk of UNHCR's budget - nearly $139 million - will go to the agency's operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia. Some $100 million are to be spent in Asia, on programmes in Afghanistan, East Timor, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In other news, the refugee agency today welcomed the European Parliament's action on Thursday to mark UNHCR's 50th anniversary. In a resolution adopted unanimously in Strasbourg, the European Union's legislature reaffirmed its support for the agency and urged the European Commission and its member states to base future European Union asylum instruments on the "highest refugee protection standards."
UNHCR was particularly pleased with the resolution's call for the European Union to provide political and financial support to the agency and to ensure predictability, flexibility and geographic balance of EU contributions. "We also welcome the call for states to urgently take 'all measures' to safeguard the physical security and property of UNHCR staff," agency spokesperson Delphine Marie told reporters today in Geneva.