There are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 25.4 million refugees. 85% of these refugees live in developing countries neighbouring their countries of origin. In spite of the often major efforts undertaken by these host countries, refugees usually face limited means to ensure a livelihood and a lack of access to basic services. Only 61% of refugee children worldwide can attend primary school, for example, compared to 92% of other children.
The support Switzerland provides the UNHCR is in line with the priorities of Swiss Humanitarian Aid. The organisation is its third most important partner. In 2018, Switzerland provided the UNHCR with CHF 43 million. In addition, 31 members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit were seconded to the UNHCR for missions concerning civilian protection and water. Switzerland is a member of the UNHCR's Executive Committee, where it has been promoting its interests – good governance of the organisation and the efficient allocation of resources to improve refugee protection – since 1958.
The multi-year support granted to the UNHCR enables it to respond rapidly to large population displacements, such as in Bangladesh in 2017 when more than 900,000 refugees from Myanmar arrived within a few months. During the conflict in Syria, the UNHCR also played a key role as the main operational agency delivering protection for refugees and displaced persons, and defending humanitarian principles before the governments concerned. Since 2011, Switzerland has allocated more than CHF 42 million to support the UNHCR's activities for the 5.6 million refugees in neighbouring countries and for the 6.2 million internally displaced people in Syria. To date, this aid for the victims of the Syrian crisis amounts to CHF 397 million, making it the most sizeable financial commitment in Switzerland's history.
The UN's largest organisation in Geneva, the UNHCR protects and supports refugees (with the exception of Palestine refugees) and stateless people, under the authority of the UN General Assembly. The UNHCR and its partners achieve important results: last year, more than 21 million people benefited from their assistance and protection programmes. 8.5 million people gained access to drinking water and 1.8 million refugee children were able to attend primary school. The UNHCR also coordinated the establishment of The Global Compact on Refugees, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018 and approved by the Federal Council at the end of 2018.
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