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Donors pledge US$1.2 billion funding to UNHCR for refugee protection and humanitarian programmes

UNHCR staff talk to children

UNHCR staff talk to students on the first day of term at Tal Estabel school in Aleppo, Syria, September 2019. © UNHCR/Antwan Chnkdj

At an annual pledging conference in Geneva today, donor governments pledged US$1.2 billion to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to provide humanitarian assistance and safeguard the rights of tens of millions of forcibly displaced and stateless people in 2020 and beyond.

The pledges include an initial US$884.4 million for 2020 to provide refugees and internally displaced people with shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, health care, education and legal protection, and to assist stateless people with obtaining a nationality. This amounts to around 9 per cent of the US$8.7 billion UNHCR estimates is needed for its programmes next year.

In addition, some US$310 million has been pledged towards multi-year programming, a demonstration of trust in the organization that allows UNHCR to be more efficient and effective in its long-term planning and support partnership in a more sustainable way.

“After a decade in which forced displacement levels reached record highs year after year, the humanitarian needs of those affected by war and persecution have never been greater,” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements. “This (support) is a great start to the year. With early, flexible and generous contributions, we can ease the suffering of people and their impacted hosts and help them cope with long-term pressures.”

The timeliness of these pledges will allow continuity of life-saving activities, including in some of the largest operations in the world responding to crises in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and across the Sahel.

However, the gap between needs and available funding continues to grow. Multiple conflicts remain unresolved, more people are uprooted from their homes, in part fueled by the effects of climate change, poverty and inequality.

“Humanitarian aid must complement, not substitute, political action,” said Clements. “It must go hand-in-hand with a broader ambition to broker peace, foster development and address the root causes of why people are forced to move in the first place.”

This vision is echoed in the aims of the Global Refugee Forum (GRF), set to take place in Geneva from 17-18 December 2019. Donors have indicated their intention to pledge additional financial support at the GRF.

States, businesses, international organizations, civil society and refugees themselves are expected to set in place bold new measures to ease pressures on host countries and communities, help refugees become more self-reliant by including development investments from the onset of emergency responses and advance the search for long-term solutions.

Voluntary contributions from governments, intergovernmental institutions, private businesses and individuals make up almost the entirety of UNHCR’s funding. In addition to today’s pledges from donor governments, representatives of UNHCR’s eight Private Sector National Partners attended the pledging conference for the first time and announced an initial commitment of US$250 million for 2020.

UNHCR is grateful for all the contributions received, particularly those providing flexible funding and multi-year support, which are essential to the organization retaining the flexibility and dynamism needed to respond quickly when new crises break out and see longer-term benefits for refugees, the forcibly displaced, and their hosts.

Originally published by UNHCR on 5 December 2019