United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

CRS Report for Congress
United Nations High
Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR)
January 3, 2003
Rhoda Margesson
Foreign Affairs Analyst
Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Johanna Bockman
Research Associate
Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Established in 1950, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) provides legal protection, implements long-term solutions, and
coordinates emergency humanitarian relief for refugees and other displaced persons
around the world. At the beginning of 2002, the populations of concern to UNHCR
totaled 19.8 million people, which included 12 million refugees. Currently, UNHCR
faces a series of challenges: the protection of displaced populations that are not
technically refugees and thus fall outside the mandate of UNHCR; availability of
resources; a worldwide asylum crisis; accusations of misconduct by UNHCR
employees; and the security of refugees and U.N. workers. Issues of particular
concern to Congress are funding shortages at UNHCR, burdensharing, and avenues
for U.S. influence within UNHCR. This report will be updated periodically.

Background ..................................................1
About UNHCR...........................................1
UNHCR’s Mandate........................................1
Current Situation..............................................3
Persons of Concern........................................3
UNHCR’s Role...........................................4
UNHCR Operations........................................4
Budget ..................................................5
Challenges for UNHCR.........................................5
Funding .................................................5
Earmarking ...............................................6
Internally Displaced Persons.................................6
Asylum Crisis.............................................7
Accusations of Misconduct..................................7
Security .................................................7
Issues for Congress............................................8
Adequate Funding.........................................8
Burden Sharing...........................................9
Asylum .................................................10
U.S. Influence...........................................10

United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the U.N.
agency dedicated to the protection of refugees and other populations displaced by
conflict, famine, and natural disasters.1 This report describes the mandate,
operations, and budget of UNHCR. It looks at the challenges facing the organization
and issues of concern for Congress.2 UNHCR provides legal protection, implements
long-term solutions, and coordinates emergency humanitarian relief for refugees and
other displaced persons. An understanding of UNHCR and its challenges is
particularly relevant today with the possibility of war in Iraq, which might create new
populations of refugees and other displaced persons, and the continuing refugee
situations in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. Issues of particular concern
to Congress are funding shortages at UNHCR, burdensharing, and avenues for U.S.
influence within UNHCR.
About UNHCR. Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1950 and made
operational in 1951, UNHCR is mandated to lead and coordinate international action
for the protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems worldwide. The
current High Commissioner is Ruud Lubbers, a former Dutch prime minister, who
began his five-year term in January 2001.
UNHCR is headquartered in Geneva and employs over 5,000 staff in more than
110 countries. Its governing body, the Executive Committee, approves the High
Commissioner’s assistance programs, advises the High Commissioner, and oversees
UNHCR finances and administration. The Executive Committee meets every year
and has 61 members, all of whom are representatives of governments, including the
United States. A smaller Standing Committee meets every three or four months.
UNHCR is mainly supported by voluntary contributions from governments.
UNHCR’s Mandate. Refugees are granted a special status under international
law. Once an individual is considered a refugee, that individual automatically has
certain rights, and states that are parties to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the

1 There are many international actors involved in various aspects of the problems presented
by refugees and internally displaced persons. These include the United Nations, other
international organizations (IOs), intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), and private voluntary organizations.
2 For further information on UNHCR, see its website: [http://www.unhcr.ch]. For further
information on U.S. refugee policy, see CRS Report RL31689, U.S. International Refugee
Assistance: Issues for Congress, by Rhoda Margesson.

Status of Refugees (1951 Convention) and/or its 1967 Protocol are obligated to
provide certain resources and protection.3 UNHCR ensures these rights, works to
find permanent solutions for refugees, and coordinates immediate humanitarian
UNHCR was established to help resettle European refugees after World War II,
and its mandate reflects this history.4 It became the institutional mechanism for the
implementation of the 1951 Convention. Under the 1951 Convention, a refugee is
legally defined as a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or
“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion,
nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside
of the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to
avail himself of the protection of that country.”5 The central rights accorded to
refugees are non-rejection of asylum seekers at the border, non-forced repatriation
(non-refoulement), admission to safety, access to fair and efficient procedures for
determination of refugee status, assurance of the same rights and basic help received
by any other foreigner who is a legal resident, and appropriate lasting solutions.6
The 1951 Convention limits the definition of refugees to those created by events
occurring prior to 1951.7 In response to the emergence of large refugee movements
since 1951, the 1967 Protocol incorporates the measures included in the 1951
Convention, but imposes no time or geographical limits. States may be a party to one
or both instruments. UNHCR often works with states on national laws to implement
provisions of these international treaties and argues that international law overrides
other bilateral agreements that may exist. Enforcement of the 1951 Convention
and/or its 1967 Protocol remains a challenge.

3 138 countries are party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and/or
its 1967 Protocol. The United States is only party to the Protocol and not the Convention.
See Justification to Congress for 2003 by Department of State’s Population, Refugee, and
Migration Bureau: [http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/14382.pdf].
4 Within the U.N. system, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East (UNRWA) also protects refugees and provides humanitarian aid. However, this
agency is completely separate from UNHCR and works only with Palestinian refugees.
5 Text of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Chapter

1, Article 1 (A) 2.

6 “Who is a refugee?,” Basic Facts, UNHCR webpage ([http://www.unhcr.ch]); Susan
Martin, “Global migration trends and asylum,” Journal of Humanitarian Assistance,
Working Paper No. 41, October 30, 2001, [http://www.jha.ac/articles/u041.htm]. The
principle of “non-refoulement” means that “No contracting State shall expel or return
(“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life
or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership
of a particular social group or political opinion.” Text of the 1951 United Nations
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Chapter 1, Article 33.1. The issue of non-
refoulement is also considered part of customary international law.
7 Text of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Chapter

1, Article 1 (B) 1.

Over time, the U.N. General Assembly has passed resolutions expanding
UNHCR’s involvement to those escaping armed conflict, generalized violence,
foreign aggression, and other circumstances.8 While UNHCR’s mandate is to protect
refugees (and by legal definition, refugees have crossed an international border
because of persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted) it now provides
assistance to a broader group known as “persons of concern” to UNHCR.
Current Situation
Persons of Concern. UNHCR
Total Population of Concern to UNHCRestimates as of January 1, 2002, indicate
(Total = 19.8 million)that there are 19.8 million persons of
Refugees 12 million61%concern worldwide. This category
Internally5.3 million26%includes refugees, returnees, internally
Displaced Personsdisplaced persons (IDPs), asylum seekers,
Asylum Seekers 940,800 5%stateless persons, and others. Compared
Returned Refugees 467,700 2%
Returned IDPs 241,000 1%with the year before, this number has
Various 1 million 5%decreased by 2 million, as many refugees
have returned to their home countries.
When refugees begin to return to their home countries, UNHCR often provides
assistance to these “returnees” and monitors their well-being. UNHCR may provide
transportation, a start-up package (which may contain such items as cash grants, farm
tools, and seeds), and assistance rebuilding homes and schools. Monitoring of their
well-being rarely continues longer than two years.
Unlike refugees who seek asylum outside their country of citizenship, internally
displaced persons have not crossed an international border but remain inside their
own country. Under international law, IDPs do not have the same protection as
refugees. IDPs fall into the gaps between the mandates of different agencies. By
default, UNHCR has provided assistance and some protection to IDPs, but it has
argued that it lacks the capacity and resources
to cope systematically with the needs of IDPs
Geographical Distribution of in addition to its refugee caseload. The plight
Persons of Concernof this group has gained international
Asia 8.8 millionrecognition as a problem that needs to be
Europe 4.9 millionaddressed.
Africa 4.2 million
N. America 1.1 millionThere are other groups requiring
Latin America 765,400assistance. Asylum seekers are people who
and Carribean
Oceania 81,300flee their home country and seek sanctuary in
Total19.8 milliona second state. They apply for asylum —
which is the right to be recognized as a
refugee — and receive legal protection and
material assistance. UNHCR helps these asylum seekers, whose formal status has
not yet been determined. In addition to asylum seekers, there are other refugee-like
populations. For example, UNHCR assists stateless persons, such as those from the

8 2002 General Appeal, UNHCR, p. 11: [http://www.unhcr.ch.]

former Soviet Union who have not been able to obtain citizenship in any of the
former republics.
UNHCR’s Role. UNHCR has three main functions. First, it provides legal
protection to those who fall within its mandate. Governments establish procedures
to determine refugee status and related rights in accordance with their own legal9
systems. UNHCR offers advice and non-binding guidelines to these governments.
In countries, which are not party to international refugee treaties but request UNHCR
assistance, UNHCR may determine refugee status and offer its own protection and
Second, UNHCR seeks permanent solutions to refugee situations. In general,
there are three solutions for refugees: 1) voluntary repatriation, 2) local integration
in the country of first asylum, and 3) resettlement from the country of first asylum to
a third country. UNHCR prefers voluntary repatriation, whereby refugees return to
their home countries. If repatriation is impossible, then UNHCR seeks either local
integration or, if this is impossible, resettlement in a third country.
Third, UNHCR also coordinates numerous non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) that provide emergency humanitarian relief to refugees. This relief includes
shelter, food, and basic medical care.
UNHCR also carries out a variety of other activities. For example, in the past
UNHCR has provided training for border guards on how to handle refugee situations,
developed an intergovernmental emergency response team for greater integration and
coordination, and resolved particularly sensitive situations between governments and
those seeking asylum. Some of these situations involved behind-the-scene
negotiations and discussions.
UNHCR Operations. As humanitarian crises became more complex through
the 1990s, UNHCR began working with a wider number and variety of organizations.
Within the U.N. system, UNHCR works most closely with the World Food Program
(WFP), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization
(WHO), the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human
Rights. UNHCR also coordinates with international organizations (IOs), such as the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and NGOs such as the International
Rescue Committee (IRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
UNHCR works with over 500 NGOs that provide much of the operational support
for refugees.
In the past decade, UNHCR has dealt with massive population movements,
including those from Rwanda, the Balkans, and Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans
have lived for years in refugee camps, partly supported by UNHCR, in Pakistan and

9 Some states have ad hoc procedures in place that give individuals an opportunity for a
determination to be made as to whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution that
can be recognized under the refugee mandate.

Iran. Since September 11, 2001, a reverse situation has taken place as many more
Afghans have returned home from Pakistan and Iran than were expected, putting a
strain on UNHCR programs and leading to a reduction in the resources provided to
these returnees.10
UNHCR is putting together a contingency plan for Iraq in the event of a war.11
Currently, while there are a small number of NGOs in Iraq, U.N. agencies provide
the bulk of humanitarian assistance in the form of food and medicine. Reportedly,
the United Nations estimates that over 60 percent of 24 million people in Iraq receive
monthly food distributions.12 Depending on its scope and duration, war could create
a humanitarian emergency with large population movements across borders or within
Iraq itself.
Budget. UNHCR depends almost entirely on voluntary contributions to fund
its operations. Of UNHCR’s budget, 98% comes from voluntary contributions from
governments and other donors, such as foundations, corporations, and the public at
large. Two per cent comes from the U.N. regular budget and covers administrative
personnel costs in the Geneva headquarters. Nearly 95% of the total contributions to13
UNHCR come from 15 donors (14 governments and the European Union).
The Calendar Year (CY) 2002 budget of UNHCR is currently $1.05 billion,
composed of $801.7 million from the annual budget, $219 million from
supplementals to cover new emergency needs, $20 million from the U.N. regular
budget, and $7 million from a young professional recruitment program. The CY2003
UNHCR appeal is for $837 million for the annual budget and $39.5 million for
Challenges for UNHCR
Funding. Since 1999, UNHCR’s annual budget has seen shortfalls, which
have required cuts in planned programs.14 Since UNHCR relies on voluntary
contributions, it depends on the annual generosity of its donors and cannot anticipate
from year to year how much money will be available nor how much it will have to
spend. Some pledged contributions are also late. These problems create a general
cash availability crisis and budget shortfalls. In February 2002, UNHCR froze its
administrative budgets. As of June 30, 2002, only $678 million had been received as
income, which led to an 11% decrease in planned programs. The UNHCR annual
budget was cut in CY2002 from just over $800 million to $710 million. These

10 Pam O’Toole. “U.N. Seeks Extra Afghan Aid,” BBC World Service, June 13, 2002.
11 See [http://www.unhcr.ch].
12 “UN sees huge aid needs in case of war on Iraq,”Reuters, December 23, 2002.
13 In addition to the European Union, these include the United States, Japan, the
Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Canada,
Switzerland, Australia, Finland and France.
14 2002 Global Appeal, p. 16.

funding shortfalls have most seriously affected programs in Africa, as well as in
Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and the Caucasus.15
The unpredictability of global conflicts also contributes to UNHCR’s financial
difficulties. UNHCR cannot fully anticipate the extent and costs of new refugee
emergencies. During CY2002, UNHCR had to make a supplemental appeal to fund
new emergency needs in Afghanistan, Macedonia, East Timor, Liberia, Angola, and
Zambia, as well as new programs to protect U.N. personnel. For CY2003, UNHCR
has made another supplemental appeal. UNHCR has introduced new mechanisms
to improve its funding flows, including the creation of an operational reserve to cover
some emergencies and other unexpected costs.
Earmarking. Countries often earmark their funds for specific programs. The
United States earmarks 97% of its contributions with 25% tightly earmarked (to be
used only for specific countries or types of activities) and 72% lightly earmarked
(allocated for use within specified geographic regions). Other countries tightly
earmark a larger proportion of their contributions, such as the European Commission,
which does so for its entire contribution. In contrast, the Netherlands provides 65%16
of its contribution in unrestricted funds. Tight earmarking, in particular, means that
some programs are well funded and other programs experience shortages. For
example, countries provided a high level of funding earmarked to the Kosovo crisis,
but African crises have not received the same level of funding.17 Countries that
tightly earmark “appear to view UNHCR as an implementing partner rather than a
global multilateral agency with a universal mandate.”18
Internally Displaced Persons. High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has
reportedly stated that UNHCR will care for IDPs only under certain conditions and
only if UNHCR has adequate resources: “I will not say that UNHCR will care for all
IDPs. I do not believe in that at all.”19 Instead, High Commissioner Lubbers seeks
a broader response from the U.N. system and the international community. The lack
of a designated organization mandated to focus on IDPs has resulted in an
inconsistent and often incomplete response to IDP crises.20 A number of questions
remain unresolved. Which organization(s) should take on this role? What kind of
protective legal mechanism might be established to provide for IDPs in much the
same way the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol have done for refugees?

15 Some European countries have contributed new funds. “More money trickles in for U.N.
refugee agency after urgent appeal,” Agence France-Presse, October 25, 2002.
16 “Earmarking Patterns in 2001,” [http://www.unhcr.ch].
17 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The State of the World’s Refugees: Fifty
Years of Humanitarian Action. Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 167.
18 2002 Global Appeal, p. 18.
19 Interview with Ruud Lubbers in Refugees magazine:
[http://www.unhcr.ch/un&ref /lubbers/future.htm] .
20 Loescher, Gil, The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path. Oxford, Oxford
University Press, 2001.

Asylum Crisis. UNHCR has been coping with increased numbers of asylum
seekers. At the same time, states are less willing to provide asylum. Developing
countries host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees. The top five
refugee-hosting countries are Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Tanzania, and the United
States. However, the countries with the most refugees per 1,000 inhabitants are
Armenia, Guinea, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Republic of the Congo, and
Djibouti. When one takes into account GDP, those countries with the largest refugee
populations per $1 million of GDP are Armenia, Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, and21
Congo. These countries have generously accepted refugees and often receive
international assistance from UNHCR. However, the international community does
not cover all the costs associated with large refugee populations. These countries and
many others have become less willing to take in asylum seekers because they already
have substantial refugee populations, face increasing economic problems, and worry
about perceived threats to domestic security.
Even developed countries are less willing to accept asylum seekers. The
European Union, for example, sought to stem the flow of asylum seekers by
promoting regional protection (relying on safe havens and other zones in the region
of origin) and interpreting narrowly the definition of refugees (for example,
excluding those persecuted by non-state actors).22 These measures may have the
unintended consequence of expanding illegal migration, migrant trafficking, and
organized crime, as refugees under duress seek other avenues of asylum.23
Accusations of Misconduct. In November 2001, UNHCR requested an
investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation of refugees by its own aid
workers in West Africa. The resulting report in July 2002 could not verify the
allegations, but found 10 cases of sexual exploitation, of which one case involved a
U.N. Volunteer. Even though no allegations against U.N. staff members have been
substantiated, the report does reveal that sexual exploitation occurs in refugee camps
perhaps due to a lack of day-to-day UNHCR management and the conditions of camp
life. Through 2002 and 2003, UNHCR is implementing a series of reforms to stop
sexual exploitation among refugees.24
Security. In some regional and civil wars, combatants have used refugees as
pawns in their overall strategy. For example, some experts argue that in Kosovo
Milosovic and other leaders may have purposely created large-scale refugee crises

21 “Funding UNHCR’s Programmes,” UNHCR Global Report 2000, p. 28.
22 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Conference “Recent European Union
Initiatives to Stem the Flow of Asylum Seekers and Migrants,” October 9, 1998:
[ h t t p : / / www.cei p.or g] .
23 UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers has recently proposed a “Convention
Plus” approach as one possible mechanism for dealing with the wide range of refugee and
migration challenges. See UNHCR website ([http://www.unhcr.ch]), News, Press Releases,
September 13, 2002.
24 “Report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services on the investigation into sexual
exploitation of refugees by aid workers in West Africa,” United Nations document,
A/57/465, October 11, 2002.

to shape the outcome of the war and manipulate the response by the international
community. As a result, refugees may be seen as central to the objectives and
strategies of war, and yet many remain innocent victims caught in the crossfire.
In many cases, refugees seek to escape violence, but violence often follows them
to refugee camps. These camps may house rival ethnic groups and armed rebels as
in Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan in the 1990s, may be invaded by rebel
forces as is currently the case in Uganda, and may not be able to protect refugees
from sexual exploitation and general violence. UNHCR has sought to protect
refugees and its workers from this violence, but some argue that more needs to be
Since UNHCR often operates in the midst of wars, humanitarian assistance to
refugees is not always viewed by the combatants as a neutral act.25 UNHCR and
other humanitarian actors are increasingly perceived as taking sides. Further
aggravating these problems, humanitarian agencies have needed to work with
military forces, which also increasingly provide humanitarian assistance (as was the
case in Macedonia during the Kosovo conflict). The risk, some argue, is that the
humanitarian assistance community and refugees they protect may appear to be
parties to the conflict.26 As a result of these trends, some U.N. humanitarian aid
workers have become targets in civil wars. To improve security to its personnel, the
United Nations established at the end of 2001 a new Emergency and Security Service
program, of which each U.N. agency pays a portion of the costs. UNHCR will pay
$2 million for this program, as well as another $7 million for other security
programs.27 UNHCR has included the costs of these programs in its budget appeal
for CY2003.
Issues for Congress
Adequate Funding. The U.S. government is the largest contributor to
UNHCR, representing at least 25% of all contributions.28 The largest share of U.S.29
contributions is voluntary. In FY2002, the U.S. government contributed $255
million to UNHCR. Until FY2003 funding has been appropriated, programs will
continue to operate at FY2002 funding levels. A key concern is whether UNHCR

25 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2000. The State of the
World’s Refugees: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
pp. 282-283.
26 “Report of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees: Questions related to refugees
and displaced persons and the humanitarian question,” Speech delivered by Armas Rahola
to the U.N. General Assembly, November 19, 1999.
27 2003 Global Appeal, UNHCR, p. 51: [http://www.unhcr.ch].
28 Arthur E. Dewey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration,
stated, “We try to be reliable in the US Government by using the multilateral system and we
contribute 25 percent minimum, of the refugee costs of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees.” “Reconstruction and Humanitarian Efforts in Afghanistan” Briefing, August 29,

2002: [http://www.state.gov/p/sa/rls/rm/13187.htm].

29 Regular assessed U.N. dues cover the administrative costs of UNHCR operations.

will receive adequate contributions from
U.S. Voluntary Contributions the United States in FY2003. The State
to UNHCRDepartment’s Population, Refugees, and
(in millions of $)Migration (PRM) Bureau expects to
have refugee needs equal to FY2002,
FY90 $104FY97 $241and there could be a significant shortage
FY91206FY98254in refugee program funding, including
FY92 241 FY99 293
FY93293FY00245funding to UNHCR. Any additional
FY94255FY01245funds would depend on the possibility of
FY95227FY02255a supplemental appropriation (with a
FY96 262 FY03 *
* Figures not yet available. likely delay in funding of UNHCR
programs). Furthermore, many countries
follow the U.S. lead in making their own
voluntary contributions. If the United States lowers its contributions, other countries
may follow suit. In general, both the Executive branch and Congress value the work
of UNHCR. For example, the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ most recent
foreign operations report stated that the Committee “strongly supports” the work of
UNHCR, is “deeply concerned” by the large budget shortfall, and is “alarmed that
this shortfall is beginning to adversely impact field operations in a number of
regi ons.”30
Authorization for participation in the UNHCR program is through the Migration
and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (P.L. 87-510), as amended. Authorization is
found in the Department of State authorization bill, which is determined by the
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on International
Relations. Appropriations for UNHCR programs are provided in the Foreign
Operations Appropriations bill to the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA)
Account and to the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Fund,
which are overseen by the State Department.31
Burden Sharing. How much of UNHCR’s expenses should the United States
cover? According to U.S. Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and
Migration Arthur E. Dewey, the European Union has not made adequate
contributions to UNHCR, providing only 15% of its budget, in contrast to the 25%
contributed by the United States. Through its European Community Humanitarian
Office (ECHO), the European Union has distributed humanitarian assistance through
NGOs, instead of through multilateral agencies like UNHCR. According to Dewey,
ECHO should contribute the same level to UNHCR as the United States.32 However,
individual European governments also provide money directly to UNHCR.

30 S.Rept. 107-219, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs
Appropriations Bill, 2003, July 24, 2002, p. 44.
31 Other activities funded through the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee
Assistance (MRA) Account include: overseas refugee assistance; the costs of processing
refugees for admission to the United States and the initial period of resettlement; aid to
refugees resettling in Israel; and administrative expenses of the Department of State’s
Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Bureau.
32 “Reconstruction and Humanitarian Efforts in Afghanistan” Briefing, August 29, 2002:
[ ht t p: / / www.st at e.gov/ p/ sa/ r l s / r m/ 13187.ht m] .

According to UNHCR, ECHO and the European Union member governments have
collectively provided about $70 million more than the United States to UNHCR in
FY2002. The main issue appears to be whether ECHO and the member governments
should redirect more funds from their own bilateral programs into multilateral
programs like UNHCR.
Asylum. The U.S. government has reduced the number of refugees admitted
into the United States. Until 1995, the ceiling for admissions was over 100,000. This33
ceiling has fallen to 70,000 for 2003. These reductions should be considered within
the context of the broader international asylum crisis. In addition, U.S. response to
asylum seekers and protection of refugees will likely impact its ability to influence
other countries’ behavior with regard to the protection of asylum seekers.
U.S. Influence. Congress has sought to make certain that specific programs
and geographical areas receive adequate resources. The House Committee on
International Relations has emphasized protecting Afghan refugees, East Timorese
refugees, and refugees in Africa.34 The U.S. government influences the activities of
the UNHCR in many ways. First, since it contributes a substantial proportion of the
total UNHCR budget and earmarks these funds, the U.S. government supports certain
programs and certain geographical areas, and allows U.S. policy priorities to
influence UNHCR priorities. Second, through the very act of contributing money and
protecting refugees according to certain standards, the U.S. government also
encourages other countries to contribute at appropriate levels and treat refugees at a
certain standard. Third, the United States is an active member of UNHCR’s
Executive Committee and, therefore, has a voice in the administration of UNHCR.
Fourth, U.S. nationals work for UNHCR and bring U.S. interests, values, and
perspectives with them. Congress may address two related questions. What kind of
influence should the United States have? How can the United States balance its
priorities with the fact that UNHCR is a global, multilateral agency with a universal

33 “White House Announces 2003 Refugee Admission Figures,” Presidential Determination
No. 2003-02, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, October 16, 2002; “Spotlight
on the US Refugee Resettlement Program,” [http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/
34 H.Rept. 107-57, Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003, May

4, 2001.