NGO: American Refugee Committee International

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) is a Minneapolis based organization that advocates for displaced persons throughout the world.  The stated mission of the ARC is to work for the survival, health and well being of refugees, displaced persons and persons at risk toward enabling them to rebuild productive lives of dignity and purpose.  In 25 years of operation the ARC has expanded its programs at refugee sites to 12 counties in Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.  ARC assistance reaches more than one million refugees annually though programs that include the provision of health care, clean water, shelter repair, legal aid, counseling, micro-credit and repatriation assistance.

History:  The ARC was founded in 1978 in the wake of the Indochinese refugee crisis.  Chicago businessman Neal Ball organized the ARC after he was invited to sponsor a Laotian refugee who would be settling in the city.  Through his experience as sponsor Mr. Ball recognized the varied and urgent needs of refugees and was joined by other community leaders who had had similar experiences.  In 1979 ARC sent teams of medical specialists to refugee sites in Thailand to direct primary health care to Cambodian refugees.  Gradually ARC expanded services to multiple sites in Thailand and extended its services to resettlement assistance.  In 1985 ARC opened operations in Sudan for Ethiopian refugees and in 1988 established similar programs in Malawi.  ARC has continued to expand, most recently extending Sudan operations to reach the refugees in Darfur, delivering aid to Iraq, and assisting Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Values:  ARC emphasizes involvement of the persons they serve in the planning and implementation of their projects with the objective of making the programs sustainable.  Of the ARC’s 1,600 employees, less than 30 work in the US to assure that resources are directed to programs at the refugee sites.  Over the past five years more than 93 percent of all of ARC revenues have been directed to international programs.  A fundamental objective of ARC is to build programs based on the needs of the places that it serves and to design practical responses with local participation and training to assure continuity after ARC personnel depart.  ARC embraces international standards of humanitarian relief and the language of these standards is echoed in statements of project planning and evaluation.  In recent years ARC has played a role in developing standards of refugee assistance through a series of publications specifically aimed at training humanitarian workers to implement programs addressing problems of gender-based violence in areas of conflict.

Financing:  Over the past five years, ARC has operated on annual revenues of US$20 to US$28 million.  Funds are obtained for a variety of sources: US government grants (USAID and US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration), the United Nations (UNHCR), grants from foreign governments (Ireland, UK, Germany, and the Netherlands) and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations.  Of the US$25 million in revenues for 2003, 13 million (52%) came from the US government, 4.1 million (17%) from the UNHCR, 5.2 (21 %) from foreign governments, and 2.2 million (9%) from private contributions.

University of Hawaii at Manoa; Center of Excellence in DMHA; ICRC

Contact Information

Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 118
Honolulu, HI 96822