As prepared for delivery
Ambassador Betty King
U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva
Joint IOM – UNHCR Humanitarian Briefing on Libya Border Evacuations
March 18, 2011
Palais des Nations
Thank you for this important and timely update on the efforts of your two organizations and your candid assessment of the continuing needs.
I want to join High Commissioner Guterres and Director General Bill Swing in their praise for the actions of Tunisia and Egypt to keep the borders open to those fleeing Libya. In doing so they are upholding one of the most important humanitarian principles of protection, and as the situation continues to develop, I hope all of Libya’s neighbors will remain unwavering in their commitment to keep their borders open to those who face peril and persecution in Libya.
As we have heard again this morning, the needs are enormous. I think we should with gratitude recognize the heroic efforts of IOM and UNHCR in spearheading an operation that has already assisted nearly thirty-four thousand people return home. The suffering these people have endured in reaching Libya’s borders has been immense, and without UNHCR and IOM’s joint humanitarian evacuation operation that suffering would have been compounded. We cannot let this operation flounder for lack of funding. Countries’ support for the efforts of IOM and other key agencies is critically needed to meet the humanitarian needs of those fleeing the ongoing violence in Libya.
The U.S. Government response to date has been robust. The United States is providing $47 million – including $13 million to IOM and $7 million to UNHCR – to support efforts to assist and evacuate people fleeing the violence in Libya. U.S. humanitarian assistance teams are in multiple locations in the region, including in Tunisia and Egypt, working with host governments, the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners to address the urgent needs of those who are fleeing as well as those remaining inside Libya.
We must do everything we can to reduce the human suffering and alleviate the pressure on Tunisia’s and Egypt’s borders. Many donors have already contributed. I urge them to contribute more. Many countries have not yet contributed. I exhort them to action, to contribute in cash or kind as generously as they can. Many countries whose citizens have been stranded have augmented the international effort, including several nations of limited means. They deserve our admiration; such assistance demonstrates the recognition that all governments must be responsive to the needs of their people.
The Security Council’s action yesterday evening demonstrates, the international community’s determination to take collective political action to protect the people of Libya. In this forum of international humanitarian response, it is our common responsibility to all do more to meet these great humanitarian challenges. As these revised appeals make clear, needs continue to grow and we all must do what we can to address them. My own government will be reviewing the appeals carefully to determine how we can further respond, and we urge other countries to do the same. We also urge countries whose citizens are most affected to continue to come forward with aircraft and financial support for these efforts.