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Top UN refugee official calls Switzerland to increase contribution

UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers flanked by Swiss foreign minister Joseph Deiss (left) and justice minister Ruth Metzler


The United Nations' new high commissioner for refugees has called on Switzerland to increase its financial contribution to the UN refugee agency. Ruud Lubbers made the call during Monday's visit to the capital, Bern.

The Dutchman, who came into post three weeks ago, said that Switzerland's annual contribution to the agency, around SFr30 million, had remained the same for the past five years. It was time to raise it, he said.

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, said that the country hoped to be able to increase the sum in the future, but gave no further details.

Although Switzerland is not a member of the UN it plays host to many of the international body's branches, and is a member of the refugee agency's executive board. Its financial input represents two per cent of the agency's budget, and makes it the 11th most generous donor country.

Lubbers' visit also focused on the 50th anniversary of the Geneva refugee convention. A conference of the 1951 convention's signatories is due to take place in the city in December.

The meeting aims to revise the convention, and its additional 1967 protocol, in order to cover new categories of refugees. Lubbers said that every refugee needed international protection, regardless of their reasons for fleeing their home country.

The current convention deals primarily with those displaced by conflict, and does not strictly offer protection to economic or political refugees.

swissinfo with agencies


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