There are more refugees in the world today than at any other time in recent history, so says the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres:
In a speech to the opening of the annual meeting of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Guterres said UNHCR was facing a level of refugee crises unmatched in its recent history, with simultaneous new emergencies in Syria, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“Already in 2011, as crisis after crisis unfolded, more than 800,000 people crossed borders in search of refuge – an average of more than 2,000 refugees every day. And this was higher than at any time in the last decade,” he said. “And so far this year, more than 700,000 people have fled from the DRC, Mali, Sudan and Syria.”
What’s worse, even as the number of refugees around the world is increasing, the funding levels to deal with these emergencies are flatlining.
We are at a moment when the demands on us are rising while the means available to respond have remained at a similar level to last year. Our operations in Africa, in particular, are dramatically underfunded,” he said. “At this moment, we have no room for any unforeseen needs. No reserves available. In today’s unpredictable operating environment, this is a cause for deep concern.”
Guterres said that to ameliorate matters UNHCR had instituted new efforts to improve efficiencies, among them cutting back on non-essential procurement and tightened control on replenishment of aid stockpiles. In addition, he said UNHCR – which relies on voluntary contributions – was seeking increased funding from non-traditional sources, including in the private sector.
Guterres, who has been the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees since 2005, said continued support was needed for those nations that host the world’s major refugee populations – mainly developing countries. He also spoke of the importance to UNHCR of partnerships with other humanitarian actors, including national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries and regions with large displaced populations.