UNHCR chief Guterres signs funding agreement with Ireland

DUBLIN, Ireland, February 5 (UNHCR) – The Irish government has pledged to continue its substantial financial support for the UN refugee agency under an accord signed with High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

Guterres, making his first visit to Ireland as UNHCR chief, inked a biannual agreement in Dublin on Wednesday with Minister of State for Overseas Development Peter Power, who signed on behalf of Irish Aid, Ireland's programme of assistance to developing countries.

The deal is worth 14.35 million euros (US$18.7 million) a year, but UNHCR might also seek additional emergency funding from Ireland and other countries depending on needs identified by the agency.

The agreement is an important strategic planning tool for UNHCR as its partnership with Ireland continues to grow. Like other donor nations, Ireland has had to consider cuts in its overseas aid at a time of economic recession.

But despite planned cuts, announced Tuesday, to its overseas development assistance, Ireland's contribution to UNHCR remains substantial. The small European nation also remains the sixth most generous donor for overseas development assistance internationally in per capita terms and among UNHCR's top 15 donors in monetary terms.

Ireland granted UNHCR some US$27 million annually in 2007 and 2008, consisting of a core contribution and funds for emergency operations. The money helped fund the refugee agency's operations worldwide to assist millions of displaced people.

"The agreement will help us develop our already very strong operational relationship with Irish Aid and offers a solid framework for assisting UNHCR achieve its global objectives for uprooted people," said Manuel Jordao, UNHCR's representative in Ireland.

"It's also crucial to have mechanisms like this to measure the effectiveness of assistance given to us," Jordao added. An important aspect of the agreement will guide the monitoring and evaluation of UNHCR's performance, which will be reported in UNHCR's annual Global Report and at meetings of the agency's governing Executive Committee, of which Ireland is a member.

Guterres also discussed UNHCR's relationship with Ireland during a separate meeting on Wednesday with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

By Steven O'Brien
In Dublin, Ireland
http://www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/498b02672.html

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