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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion South-West Asia
People of Concern - 2020[["Refugees",2311258],["Asylum-seekers",9997],["IDPs",2985215],["Returned IDPs",1782],["Returned refugees",2330],["Others of concern",82657]]
Response in 2020Having entered a fifth decade of their protracted displacement, Afghans were the largest refugee population in Asia and the Pacific, and the third largest refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate globally. With more than 780,000 and 1.4 million registered refugees respectively, the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan continued to host 85% of the world’s 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees. Both countries also hosted sizeable populations of documented and undocumented Afghan nationals with different legal status. Due to the deteriorating security and economic situation, uncertainties surrounding the political transition and the nascent peace process, as well as the impact of COVID-19 and limited absorption capacity and reintegration opportunities in Afghanistan, voluntary repatriation reached an historic low of 2,147 refugee returnees (assisted by UNHCR and processed at encashment centres in Afghanistan) in 2020. Voluntary repatriation resumed after a temporary suspension due to COVID-19, with a modest increase in the cash assistance (from US$ 200 to US$ 250 per person) to accommodate increased travel costs. More than 330,000 Afghans were internally displaced by conflict in 2020 alone, in addition to those driven from their homes by recurrent natural disasters.
Despite a host of their own socioeconomic challenges, further compounded by the multi-faceted impact of COVID-19, the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan continued to pursue progressive and inclusive policies, notably in access to documentation and national education and health care systems, as well as human capital development and economic opportunities.
At the Islamabad Refugee Summit, convened by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in February 2020, the international community commemorated forty years since the beginning of the Afghan displacement and recognized the generosity and hospitality of the countries and communities hosting them. Participants reiterated the imperative for solutions – including through a broader partnership base built on solidarity and responsibility-sharing. To this end, the three Governments in the region, UNHCR and the international community continued to proactively engage within the multi-year regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) which has provided a comprehensive policy and operational framework to enable voluntary return and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, while also easing pressure on national systems and host communities in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan. The dedicated Support Platform for the SSAR was further consolidated throughout 2020 to revitalize the international community’s political and financial commitment to the Afghan refugee situation through investment in the implementation of the SSAR. The Core Group of the Support Platform comprised 13 members, including the Asian Development Bank, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.
The three Governments and UNHCR also developed a regional SSAR portfolio of scalable projects that identifies the most urgent needs requiring financial and technical support from partners in the near- to medium-term. In view of the demographic composition of the Afghan refugee population in the region - with nearly 60% children and youth – youth empowerment and resilience-building in priority sectors of education, vocational training, health and livelihoods remain the key priorities.
In Afghanistan, the Government and UNHCR identified 20 additional priority areas of return and reintegration (PARRs), bringing the total number of PARRs to 40. Conflict-sensitive humanitarian, development and peace investments in these areas were instrumental in enhancing the absorption capacity, shoring up the coping mechanisms and helping build resilient communities that can withstand multiple shocks. The PARRs are fully aligned with the priorities of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework II for 2021-2025 and the Afghanistan Partnership Framework, adopted at the 2020 Geneva Conference on Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Partnership Framework contains targets and indicators related to return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs, including in the areas of access to services, housing and employment, as well as issuance of civil documentation.
UNHCR simultaneously sought to channel additional investments into the national public service delivery systems in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan (education, health care, social protection and vocational skills development), with a view to supporting inclusive government policies and benefitting host communities and refugees alike. Additional assistance was provided to support the Governments’ efforts to address the health and socioeconomic implications of COVID-19 on refugees.
Working environment and response in 2020The large-scale displacement of Afghans is now entering its fifth decade, with some 4 million Afghan refugees hosted by Pakistan and close to 1 million by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both countries also host large numbers of undocumented Afghans, some of whom may also need international protection.
The Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) remains the key framework between the three countries and UNHCR, enabling consensus building and strengthening partnership.
The sub-regional and internal political and security dynamics will continue to shape UNHCR’s complex operational environment in South-West Asia. UNHCR’s ability to facilitate voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, and to preserve and enhance protection space in Pakistan, will largely depend on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, including the outcomes of the 2019 presidential elections, the peace talks with Taliban, potential drawdown of the US and NATO forces, and the intra-Afghan dialogue and reconciliation process.
These complex transitions and the limitations of the Government of Afghanistan to fulfil its commitments to sustainable reintegration of returnees in a highly volatile security environment, may affect the decision of refugees to return and impact the population movements.
While contingency measures are valid for up to 100,000 refugee returns to Afghanistan, the planning assumption for 2020 is based on a return of 60,000 Afghan refugees from both the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan.
Iran may witness further economic decline, under the current international climate, leading to increased needs within large segments of the Iranian society, including large numbers of refugees and other people of concern to UNHCR.
In Afghanistan, in addition to the voluntary repatriation cash grant of USD 200 per refugee returning, UNHCR is developing short to medium-term community-based projects in some 15 priority areas of return and reintegration (PARR). These PARRs have been designated in line with the Government’s priorities and are linked to longer-term development programmes, as committed under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Iran, which jointly with Pakistan, hosts one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world, gave asylum to 951,142 Afghan refugees and 28,268 Iraqi refugees, in addition to about 400 Kurd and Rohingya households. 97% of the refugees in Iran live in urban and rural areas while the remaining 3% reside in 21 settlements managed by BAFIA. In 2020 UNHCR aims to support the Government to continue to provide more sustainable access to quality national services in particular health and education, greater opportunities for self-reliance including through financial and economic inclusion, enhanced access to social safety nets for vulnerable refugees and enhanced harm prevention and response mechanism, while seeking durable solutions. Socio-political situation in the region is volatile, coupled by economic decline, therefore, may have an impact for implementation of objectives.
The Government of Pakistan took a very positive step in allowing refugees to open their bank accounts, which will greatly facilitate their temporary stay and business, pending their return. The Prime Minister’s participation as a co-convener at the Global Refugee Forum will be an important occasion to show case good practices – notably with the Refugees Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative, now in its tenth year, with 4,200 RAHA projects having reached 12 million people for an investment of approximately USD 220 million.
2020 Budget and Expenditure in South-West Asia | USD
|Islamic Republic of Iran||Budget|
2020 Voluntary Contributions to South-West Asia | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|South-West Asia overall|
|United States of America||0||0||0||4,600,000||4,600,000|
|South-West Asia overall subtotal||0||0||0||5,819,852||5,819,852|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||0||0||94,222||5,778||100,000|
|Common Humanitarian Fund Sudan||0||300,000||0||0||300,000|
|Private donors in Japan||0||0||0||239,234||239,234|
|Private donors in the United States of America||0||30,000||0||0||30,000|
|Republic of Korea||0||0||0||1,098,563||1,098,563|
|United States of America||500,000||0||3,000,000||29,855,000||33,355,000|
|Islamic Republic of Iran|
|Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)||2,236,500||0||0||0||2,236,500|
|Private donors in Austria||0||0||0||717||717|
|Private donors in Qatar||520,594||0||0||0||520,594|
|Republic of Korea||2,000,000||0||0||0||2,000,000|
|Islamic Republic of Iran subtotal||24,135,038||0||0||3,066,930||27,201,968|
|Private donors in China||100,590||0||0||0||100,590|
|Private donors in Qatar||600,000||0||0||0||600,000|
|Private donors in the Republic of Korea||15,681||0||0||331||16,012|
|Private donors in the United Arab Emirates||153,320||0||0||97,248||250,568|
|Private donors in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||41,976||0||0||0||41,976|
|Republic of Korea||638,409||0||0||0||638,409|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||461,987||0||0||0||461,987|
|United States of America||4,894,909||0||0||19,800,000||24,694,909|