New crises stretching aid funding to breaking point: UNHCR

Global forced displacement numbers reached 51.2 million for the first time during the post-World War II era

As forced displacement reaches a record high due to wars and conflict, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres, called for an urgent rethink of the global humanitarian funding system that is “nearly bankrupt”.

Global forced displacement numbers had reached 51.2 million for the first time during the post-World War II era, the UNHCR said in June. This has created pressure on the humanitarian financing system, which has become "dangerously overstretched" by new crises in the Middle East and Africa, as well as ongoing unresolved conflicts in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and elsewhere, the UNHCR said.

“The last few years have seen conflicts break out or escalate in a myriad of places, and these crises are becoming both more unpredictable and increasingly interlinked,” Guterres said, adding that displacement is also increasingly being driven by factors such as population growth, urbanisation, poverty, and climate change.

Global humanitarian funding reached a record high of $22bn in 2013. However, it is unable to keep up with today’s accelerating needs, requiring a fundamental rethink of both humanitarian and development financing, Guterres told the annual meeting in Geneva of UNHCR’s governing Executive Committee.

“It is very likely that all this will only lead to further enormous increases in humanitarian needs in the years to come,” he said. “This clearly puts in question the adequacy and sustainability of the resources available for humanitarian response. Already today, with the exponential increase in needs we have seen just in the last three years, the humanitarian financing system is nearly bankrupt.”

During the past 12 months, UNHCR and its partners have dealt with five full-scale humanitarian crises, requiring deployment of 670 new emergency staff, urgent recruitment of hundreds more for assistance, and an extensive shifting of staff between existing and new operations.

“In addition to the ongoing Syria crisis, new conflicts in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ukraine and most recently Iraq have caused terrible suffering and massive displacement,” Guterres said. “The international humanitarian community has scrambled to respond to these needs. But with every new crisis, we get closer to the limits of how much we can do, and we are clearly no longer doing enough.”