A record number of States have pledged the highest-ever amount in advance – $405 million – for the United Nations refugee agency’s operations for 2005, allowing it to better plan its work in the coming year.
“I'm greatly encouraged by this show of support," UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers said at the end of the annual pledging conference for donors in Geneva on Friday, when the agency announced a 2005 budget of $1.1 billion.
“Not only is the total amount committed a record for this first stage of the funding cycle, but the number of states that have already made firm pledges is also a record,” he added. “We need to continue to broaden our donor base, but I’m delighted that new states are starting to step forward.”
The amount pledged was 12 per cent higher than last year's initial figure of $358 million.
Mr. Lubbers welcomed new donors Croatia, Libya and Romania, as well as Poland, Slovenia and Venezuela, which are back after a few years' absence. He also noted substantially increased contributions from Algeria, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Morocco, Poland and Sweden.
Over the past three years, UNHCR has been receiving a greater commitment of funds during the annual pledging conferences, which has helped reduce some of the financial uncertainties that dogged operations in the early months of the annual cycle at the turn of the century. In 2001, a mere 18 countries pledged $285 million. By 2003, as states began to respond to UNHCR’s constant pleas for earlier and more predictable funding, the amount had risen to $359 million promised by 34 countries.
Another positive development at this year’s conference is that many pledging states stressed they would pay their contributions early in 2005, which would allow for an immediate start-up of planned activities, especially as considerable amounts of up-front funding are often needed – for example, for the purchase of relief items or to begin construction works or repairs.
Nearly 42 per cent of the agency’s 2005 budget has been allocated to programmes in Africa. “There are an unprecedented number of repatriation operations underway in Africa,” Mr. Lubbers said.
Last year, refugees from Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Burundi and Angola returned in large numbers, and UNHCR started a programme to help 340,000 Liberians repatriate.