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United Nations High Commissioner for Rafugees (UNHCR)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in 1951 with the intention of providing assistance-upon governmental request-to persons outside their country of origin because of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion In the last decade, however, UNHCR has taken a broader view of refugees and provided assistance accordingly. In general, activities have been concentrated in Pakistan, South-East Asia, southern and eastern Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East

UNHCR expenditures peaked at $500 million in 1980, when there were major political problems in Asia and the Horn of Africa. As the refugee situation has improved, expenditures have stabilized at $350 million to $400 million per year (UNHCR 1984). To the extent possible, UNHCR's activities are guided by the principle of developing "durable solutions". This generally means that UNHCR tries to assist refugees through repatriation or resettlement rather than the long-term provision of basic living expenses.

During the Sahel drought UNHCR provided only limited assistance, as natural disasters are handled by other UN agencies (e.g., WFP, UNDROI However, in the early 1980s UNHCR assisted some 200,000 people who were displaced as a result of the civil unrest in Chad. This programme ended in 1983, although UNHCR is continuing to provide support for Chadian refugees in countries such as Benin, Nigeria, and the Sudan. Financial assistance is also being provided to small groups of refugees of mixed origins in Niger and Burkina Faso. The largest ongoing programme in the Sahel is in Senegal, where $1.5 million annually is used to support UNHCR's regional office and a variety of services to 5,200 refugees, most of whom are from Guinea. Bissau (UNHCR 1985).

Unitad Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Founded in 1946 as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (hence the acronym UNICEF), UNICEF's initial efforts were directed towards relief operations in Europe. In the early 1950s the Fund's focus shifted to children in developing countries, and in accordance with this it was renamed in 1953. Its primary activities are in the fields of disease control, health services, malnutrition, and education.

Operating primarily from voluntary annual contributions, in 1981 UNICEF received $223 million from governments, $65 million from non-governmental sources, and $3 million from the UN system (mainly from UNHCR). Twenty-five per cent of this income was earmarked for specific projects. Total expenditures in 1981 were $293 million (including donations in kind). By sector, 21 per cent of this was spent on basic health and nutrition, 16 per cent for water supply and sanitation, 13 per cent for emergency relief (primarily for Kampuchea), 11 per cent for education, 33 per cent for administration and programme support, and 6 per cent for social services for children (UNICEF 1982).

In the Sahel, UNICEF has followed UNDP's example in establishing multi-year country programmes. The amount allocated is based on a combination of gross national product per capita, child population, and infant mortality. Typically these programmes involve a wide variety of projects which are often executed in conjunction with other agencies. Average annual expenditures range from a few hundred thousand dollars in the Gambia and Mauritania to $1.5 million in the larger countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali (ECOSOC 1981b, 1981c, 1981d, 1981e, 1981f). In most of the CILSS countries UNICEF is concentrating on child and maternal health, so there are projects to establish rural health centres, train midwives and nurses, provide medicines, etc. Since water supply is closely linked to sanitation and health, UNICEF is often involved in water resource projects. In most cases this involves digging wells and installing simple hand pumps, although occasionally motor-driven pumps are required. Another area of emphasis is education, and there are projects in most of the Sahelian countries to provide and improve both formal and non-formal training. Social welfare projects involve the provision of day care centres, machines to help grind millet and sorghum, nutrition education, fertilizers, etc. Thus UNICEF is very active in the Sahel, but its projects generally have more of an indirect than a direct effect on the natural resource base. Only the occasional, large-scale water supply projects will substantially alter the patterns of settlement and livestock management.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization was created in 1967 with the mandate to promote industrial development in developing countries. It does this through direct technical assistance, research and training programmes, and promotion/information activities. Historically, UNIDO is unusual in that it evolved as a unit under the aegis of the General Assembly but it is not a specialized agency. Hence, its research and administrative costs are part of the regular budget of the United Nations, while its technical assistance operations are supported by UNDP, the UN Industrial Development Fund, and other funds in trust. A constitution making UNIDO a separate, independent agency has been agreed to and is in the process of being ratified by the requisite 90 states (UNIDO 1982).

UNIDO is one of the larger technical assistance agencies, having expended $88 million for this purpose in 1984. Only 4 per cent of this amount came from its regular budget, while 10 per cent came from UNDP (making UNIDO the third largest executing agency for UNDP). UNIDO's Industrial Development Fund, established in the late 1970s, is currently supporting about $14 million of technical assistance programmes annually. Trust funds account for most of the balance ($8 million), and are primarily in the form of providing associate experts to UNIDO projects. In comparison, UNIDO's regular budget averages only $37 million per year for 1984-1985 (UNIDO 1985).

TABLE 19. UNIDO technical co-operation programme, 1974-1984 (million $)

  Approvals Expenditures
1974 44.2 24.1
1975 54.0 36.5
1976 25.2 40.0
1977 54.1 43.9
1978 84.0 55.1
1979 77.3 70.5
1980 94.3 76.4
1981 89.1 88.6
1982 109.2 91.9
1983 89.8 78.0
1984 103.4 87.2

Sources: UNIDO 1982,1985

The problems of matching technical assistance appropriations and expenditures are illustrated by UNIDO's record for the last decade. Initially, approved expenditures far exceeeded actual expenditures, but this was reversed when UNDP had its fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s. UNDP resumed growth in 1977-1978, thereby increasing UNIDO's technical assistance budget, but actual expenditures again lagged behind authorized expenditures Itable 19). In view of the length of time required to finalize and implement projects, a one-year fag between approvals and disbursements should not be surprising. As there has been little change in the level of contributions to the Industrial Development Fund, despite the drop in UNDP activities, it maV be that only the long~term shift from agriculture to industry will result in a substantial increase in UNIDO's technical assistance program me.

Like many of the other UN bodies, UNIDO is paying increasing attention to Africa. Particularly relevant to UNIDO is the recently declared Industrial Development Decade for Africa.

The level of UNIDO's technical assistance in a given country in the Sahel varies considerably from year to year, depending on whether any large industrial projects are operational. In 1981, for example, UNIDO had no activities in Chad or the Gambia, while expenditures in the other countries ranged from $364,000 (Mali) to $716,000 (Upper Volta). The larger projects tend to be directed towards the establishment of an industrial management infrastructure. More specific projects are generally smaller in scale and aimed at the industrial processing of local raw materials, such as fish-drying in Senegal, a cement plant in Upper Volta, and gypsum produts in Mauritania.

In general, half of the technical co~operation funds are used to bring in experts, and another fifth for equipment.

The balance is used for subcontracts, training, and miscellaneous other expenses. In Africa nearly two-thirds of UNIDO's technical co-operation funds are used to provide experts, while the percentage devoted to training drops from a world-wide average of 13.4 per cent to 7.6 per cent in Africa. In contrast to UNDP, UNIDO tends to execute a large number of small projects, particularly when its own funds are being utilized (UNIDO 1978, 1985).

United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research was organized in 1975 with a broad mandate to carry out training and research that will enhance the effectiveness of the United Nations ;n achieving its major objectives. Since 1966 it has conducted a variety of training courses, mostly short-term, to prepare government officials from developing countries to work with the United Nations and other international organizations. In this connection UNITAR familiarizes new delegates, employees, and other officials with the UN system, its modes of operation, and some of the issues confronting it (e.g. the New International Economic Order). The annual enrolment in such training courses is now close to 1,000. Altogether from 1966 until mid-1981 over 7,000 people participated in UNITAR training courses, with approximately 180 of them coming from the Sahelian countries (UNGA 1981d). If requested, UNITAR can also organize training courses within a particular country; it has recently organized two such courses on public administration for officials from the French-speaking Sahelian countries.

Research, UNITAR's other main sphere of activity, is almost totally dependent on outside funding. Topics have included development strategy, the United Nations, NIEO, etc. Of particular relevance to this study are reviews of the rote of the public sector in African development, and a collection of papers on prospects for the future. This latter project included a review of agricultural and mineral development in the Sahel. Altogether, about a dozen studies are published each year as well as a bulletin on energy and natural resources. Some publications also result from the occasional seminar or meeting organized by UNITAR.

In recent years UNITAR has had difficulty in obtaining the basic funding necessary for its work. Its annual income, already low, has not kept up with inflation and other costs, resulting in a deficit of nearly $200,000 (10 per cent) in 1979 and $490,000 (23 per cent) in 1980. The United Nations has provided special grants from its regular budget to cover the deficits, and UNITAR recently has cut back severely on space and staff in order to attempt to balance its budget (UNGA 1981d).

UNITAR also has a special-purpose fund to support its projects and other activities, and contributions to this were $2.5 million in 1980, or just about equal to the core budget. By the end of 1981 a reserve of $2.6 million had been built up, although nearly one-third of this was in non-convertible currencies (UNGA 1981d).

It is not clear that UNITAR can continue to function effectively in the face of a very limiting core budget. For 1985 it is estimated that $1.8 million of the $2.5 million core budget will come from voluntary contributions; the balance wil be provided from the United Nations' regular budget. Grants from the UN Secretariat are not a long-term solution, but there is likely to be considerable resistance from the donor countries if UN ITAR attempts to become part of the regular UN system, where contributions are mandatory. However, as in the case of UNDRO, it may prove even more difficult to set a precedent by eliminating UNITAR or incorporating its functions into a larger body. Any such action would be viewed as a dangerous first attack on the UN system, and so the only politically feasible solution will be to continue the present stalemate.

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat, UNCHS)

The UN Centre for Human Settlements was created in 1978 by combining several existing units with the UN system. Foremost among these was the UN Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, which was founded in 1974 with some initial financial and logistical assistance from UNEP. In 1976 the role of Habitat (as the Foundation is often referred to) was considerably enhanced, as it was given primary responsibility for implementing the action plan resulting from the UN Conference on Human Settlements. In 1978 the Centre for Housing and Building, which was part of the UN Secretariat, was joined to Habitat to establish the Centre for Human Settlements.

At present UNCHS has six main programme areas: (1) settlement policies and strategies, (2) settlement planning, (3) shelter, infrastructure, and services, (4) land-use policy, (5) public participation, and (6) institutions and management. As indicated above, the modes of operation are technical co-operation, research and development (including training), and information exchange. Activities in the Sahel have included the making of films in Senegal and Upper Volta, and work on building materials in Chad and transportation in Mauritania. UNCHS is also responsible for implementing selected UNDP projects in the Sahel, which have included the establishment of a centre for appropriate technology in Mali, work on renewable energy in Mauritania, a study relating to the effects of a dam in Niger, habitat improvement in Senegal, and rural housing in Upper Volta (UNDP 1982p). Regional projects in Africa have included a training course in Dakar on human settlements management, consultancy studies, and the exchange of information.

In 1983 UNCHS was responsible for executing projects worth over $15 million, with 80 per cent of this coming from UNDP. Trust funds, primarily in the form of associate experts, accounted for another 18 per cent. The limited regular programme funds were used primarily for special advisory services and training. Similarly, the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation funded a number of project-design missions and small-scale projects (UNDP 1984e ).

Habitat/UNCHS is a relatively small organization, with a total staff of just over 30. The regular income of the Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation for 19821983 was expected to be approximately $4 million, but there was a carry-over of $4.4 million. Support for the Foundation has been limited, as the United States and many of the other traditional large donors have yet to contribute. UNCHS thus seems destined to continue as a relatively minor UN organization, with its principle function being to implement UNDP and other technical assistance projects relating to human settlements.

United Nations University (UNU)

Approved in December 1973 by the UN General Assembly, the United Nations University is one of the newer organizations within the UN system. In contrast to other UN organizations, its governing body is not composed of representatives of governments but is rather a council of scholars, acting in their individual capacities, together with several representatives from other UN organizations. As a rule, project agreementc are made directly with academic institutions and do not require approval by local and national governments. Financing is also unique in that the UNU is attempting to build up an endowment fund of US$500 million, with the income from this being used to support all the activities and administrative costs. This would insulate it from the uncertainties of annual contributions. The intent of this unusual design is to provide a certain independence from the political pressures and concerns which can affect the work of other UN agencies.

The UNU began operations in mid-1975 with a mandate to build a community of scholars and, in particular, to strengthen the research and training capability of developing countries. it operates primarily through networks of collaborating institutions and scholars. At present there are nine programme areas, including peace and conflict resolution; the global economy, energy systems and policy; resource policy and management; food, nutrition, biotechnology, and poverty; and science, technology, and the information society. From 1976 through 1982 the UNU provided 355 fellowships and published (or co-published) some 54 books or proceedings (UNU 1983).

While each of the nine programme areas is relevant to the Sahel, only a few activities actually have taken place in the region. This is at least partly due to the very limited scientific infrastructure in the Sahel, which makes it difficult to set up collaborative research and training programmes. As a result, the main activity of direct benefit to the Sahel has been the award of about 15 fellowships for study overseas. The fields of study have ranged from solar energy to arid lands management to the post-harvest conservation of food. Other relevant activities have included Sahelian participation in scientific workshops and a limited amount of sponsored research, primarily in Dakar.

The UNU has also been attempting to set up specialized academic units to analyse particular problems, but these efforts are dependent on additional voluntary contributions. In late 1983 Finland agreed to provide US$30 million for an institute on development economics research, and discussions are under way for establishing an institute for natural resources in Africa. While the latter could be relevant to the interests of the Sahel, it will be difficult for such an institute to match the expertise now present in Cl LSS/Club du Sahel, and the sectoral analysis and development being conducted through ECA. It may be that governments will prefer to work with their own national institutions.

Excluding these semi-autonomous entities, the UNU presently has an annual budget of approximately $17 million per year. Most of this income is derived from interest from the $117 million in the basic endowment fund, although some countries have made smaller operating contributions. Given the present reluctance to provide general financing for UN agencies, it is doubtful that the UNU can make substantial progress in increasing its basic endowment. Thus the UNU-in contrast to agencies such as UNITAR-may be relatively secure in terms of its continued existence but uncertain with regard to future growth or the slow erosion due to inflation.


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