March 21, 2016 / 5:42 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. refugee chief seeks more money from East Asia, private donors

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The new United Nations refugee chief said on Monday he was seeking more money from East Asian nations as well as private donors to help cope with major refugee crises in the Middle East and Africa.

“We want to really convince the world that refugee assistance cannot be the responsibility just of the countries that are next to the country at war ... or the few, the 10 or 15 donors that give all the money. It is global,” said Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Grandi, who started his job on Jan. 1, said he faced “an unprecedented crisis” and noted the UNHCR’s mandate covered 60 million refugees and displaced people, as well as another 10 million stateless people.

The UNHCR - funded mainly by voluntary contributions - is coming under increasing strain as demand for its services far outstrips the money available.

“We are telling China and other east Asian countries to follow the example of Japan, which traditionally has been a large donor,” Grandi told a news conference during a visit to Ottawa.

Last year Japan - the fourth-largest UNHCR contributor - gave $173.5 million, compared with just $942,000 for China. South Korea was the second-largest Asian donor, giving $16 million.

Grandi also said he was dealing with “a very wealthy person” in Indonesia who wanted to donate and noted good progress with developing a network of private donors.

The UNHCR, he said, wanted traditional backers such as the United States, Canada and Australia to help persuade other nations to give more, especially those who were far away from Middle Eastern and African trouble spots.

“Those countries are global economic powers so they have access to information and you just need to translate that into contributions. And I think it’s coming, but it’s not a quick process,” he said.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Dan Grebler

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