With so many humanitarian crises around the world, priority humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts need increased support from Congress now more than ever. This includes the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) and the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) humanitarian accounts, along with the core peacekeeping accounts including Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Contributions for International Peacekeeping (CIPA).
It is not news that the United States has been playing a crucial role by leading humanitarian funding efforts in multiple crises worldwide. The omnibus appropriations package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December 2014, included strong topline numbers for overall humanitarian response efforts.
But while that appropriations support should be applauded, the humanitarian context is unfortunately continuing to face uphill challenges in 2015. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has highlighted the alarming numbers: 51.2 million forcibly displaced, the most since World War II. Of those 51 million, there are over 33 million internally displaced people (IDPs). Humanitarian actors are struggling to meet these enormous needs.
On the ground, funding constraints have very real consequences. When I visited Lebanon last August, I saw first-hand the vital role of community centers offering programs to both Syrian refugees and host communities. The directors of these centers were given little notice that their funding would be suspended due to unfulfilled donor pledges. When proven and essential holistic health programming for gender-based violence is cut, women lose out on life-saving support programs. Such is the case for the 2.7 million IDPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), whose basic needs are not being met.
Urgent assistance is required for protracted crises, such as the Syrian refugee response. The crisis, which is about to mark its fourth anniversary, has displaced millions both inside Syria and in the region. The United States has been the leading contributor to the response efforts, providing over $3 billion. This financial support has been essential, as has the shift to more host-community support. But as humanitarian responses such as the Syrian crisis become more complex, assistance delivery strategies must adapt to the changing landscapes to be able to reach those in need. The United States must continue and in fact increase its current humanitarian support. It is just as important that new donors come to the table. Upcoming pledging conferences, such as the Syria Crisis Donor Pledging Conference in Kuwait later this month, offer such an opportunity.
At the same time, there are new areas of crisis, such as the sudden wave of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi IDPs into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Many of these new IDPs are struggling to find adequate shelter at the same time that humanitarian difficulties continue for the almost 250,000 Syrian refugees in the KRI. We must also continue to devote our attention and resources to underreported but devastating displacement crises, such as in the Central African Republic (CAR). The CAR crisis response must address refugee needs in neighboring countries.
While the President’s FY2016 budget request takes into account many of these challenges, even more is unfortunately needed. Of particular concern is ensuring sufficient funding for both the MRA and IDA accounts. Humanitarian responses must be able to adequately plan and program. We must support and protect these accounts, prioritize longer-term programming funding commitments, and include flexible measures to support robust responses, particularly in an emergency context.
Photo: Nearly 1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) live in camps in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo.