- - Tuesday, October 25, 2016


In his Oct. 11 op-ed “Ready for the U.N.’s top post?” Brett D. Schaefer is ill-informed about Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, who was the head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for more than a decade. He led it through some of the biggest displacement crises since World War II. His advocacy for the world’s most vulnerable people is well-known. His team operated in some of the world’s most challenging and dangerous environments. Those of us who worked closely with him saw up-close his tremendous hands-on engagement in the day-to-day management of UNHCR.

Mr. Guterres implemented major structural reforms emphasizing quick delivery of life-sustaining protection and aid. He reduced by 25 percent administrative and staff costs, and slashed headquarters costs to 6.5 percent to get more aid to refugees. He expanded partnerships with local actors to deliver aid faster, better and more cheaply, and revamped UNHCR’s emergency response system. Mr. Guterres established innovative partnerships with businesses to streamline and improve vital refugee response-delivery systems, including educating kids through mobile technology, use of renewable energy, and using iris scans to register refugees and provide more cash-based help.

Each year we carefully review our operations to maximize funds and save more lives. In 2015 the Board of Auditors confirmed that UNHCR had sound internal controls, and noted that its financial processes worked well. This is a direct result of Mr. Guterres‘ decisions to invest in the improvement of financial systems. Every day he ably held our staff to a high standard and earned the fiscal stewardship confidence of donors around the world, who, during his tenure, more than tripled the resources available to the organization. His strong record speaks for itself.


U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees


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