Ireland Pledges IR£3m in Funding to UN Refugee Commission
Liz O'Donnell T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, announced that Ireland will give IR£ 3 million in 2001 to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The pledge has been made at an emergency meeting of UNHCR donors in Geneva . The pledge for 2001 is an increase of IR£1.4m on Ireland's contribution in 2000 and should place Ireland among the top 15 donors to UNHCR.
The increase of IR£51m in the Ireland Aid budget for 2001, bringing ODA to IR£260.5m or 0.35% of GNP, will enable Ireland Aid to increase its support of efforts to deal with humanitarian emergencies.
Liz O'Donnell said: "The UNHCR recently marked its 50th anniversary. The agency is currently caring for over 22 million refugees worldwide.
Although the demands on the agency are at an all time high, the UNHCR is facing a major funding crisis as pledges from donors are insufficient to enable the High Commission to fund all of its activities. The result will be the winding up of some operations with a devastating impact on the poor, particularly women and children, under its care. UNHCR faces huge challenges in areas such as Chechnya, Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan, the Congo, Sierra Leone and Angola. In recent years UNHCR workers have paid with their lives to protect refugees fleeing conflict.
Ireland has pledged to increase its funding to UNHCR to IR£3 million in 2001. This increase is real evidence of how our expanded aid budget can help us play a leadership role in responding to a global humanitarian emergency. The Government's commitment to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on ODA by the end of 2007,and an interim target of 0.45% of GNP by the end of 2002, will enable Ireland to provide much greater financial support to those most in need.
Ireland Aid, with its increased resources will strengthen its involvement both financially and in terms of policy making, in the key UN agencies. We will meet with UNHCR in January to discuss how best we can use our increased contribution to help UNHCR in overcoming the challenges it now faces
An overall review of Ireland's ODA is about to start in order to establish an agreed basis for the expansion of the programme. Now that budgetary security is in place, the task now is to consult widely and plan for the best management of the increased budget".
Note for Editors:
Thursday, 14 December was the 50th anniversary of UNHCR. While it was originally intended to have a lifespan of only three years, its mandate has been continually renewed in the years since 1950. With over a million people forced to flee their homes in Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya in 1999, the problem of forced displacement remains a major concern of the international community into the 21st century. Today, UNHCR activities assist 22 million people.
Ireland currently stands 16th in the list of government contributors to UNHCR. Our core contributions have been climbing slowly. This year Ireland Aid contributed IR£1.6m, unearmarked in its entirety, which represented an increase of almost 20% on last year's figure. In addition to our core contribution, we fund specific programmes - this year concentrating in particular on East Timor, with contributions of IR£400,000.
In recent days, UNHCR has announced that it has been forced to borrow from its Working Capital and Guarantee Fund to continue uninterrupted activities into 2001. The level of borrowing and the timing is unprecedented. The necessity to borrow has arisen, according to UNHCR, from the lack of predictability of funding and the late payment by donors of pledges. UNHCR is able to operate into 2001 on the basis of pledges received towards year end. Without the loan, some operations would be forced to close down for the remainder of 2000.
The UNHCR held an emergency meeting of donors in Geneva on Friday,15 December to discuss its funding crisis.
The current High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Sadako Ogata of Japan, will retire at the end of 2000. The UN Secretary General recently appointed the former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers to succeed Ms. Ogata.