Once again, I am pleased to be in Geneva for the Executive Committee of UNHCR. Last year at this venue, I lamented the scale, complexity, and urgency of the humanitarian crises we were facing then – calling them “unprecedented.” Little did I know that last year’s definition would so quickly become passé. Like many of us here today, I spent much of the past ten days in New York at the UN General Assembly – where the international community’s response to Syria was widely discussed at the most senior levels – as were the humanitarian crises in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Lake Chad Basin region. Tomorrow, we will debate the situation of Afghan refugees – a situation long overdue for and deserving of permanent solutions.
UNHCR has been front and center in responding to all these human tragedies with great care and professionalism – and for that, we remain profoundly grateful. But I think I can speak for all of us today when I say we are deeply concerned as we see the UN humanitarian agencies struggle to keep up with a long list of crises both protracted and new. They do not have the resources they need and deserve in order to do increasingly demanding jobs. We must increase our contributions, lengthen the list of donor countries, and do more to enlist the help of the private sector if we are to close a 60 percent funding gap for UN appeals.
For our part, my government has made an additional $419 million available for Syria, bringing our total to more than $4.5 billion in humanitarian aid since the start of that conflict. We also announced in recent days an additional $56 million in humanitarian assistance for displaced Iraqis and another $80 million for the South Sudan crisis. Funding is allocated to a number of humanitarian agencies but, in nearly every case, a large portion goes to UNHCR because UNHCR’s global reach and mission is central to deal with all the challenges we face. Our annual contribution to UNHCR this year is at an all-time high of $1.3 billion
Additionally, Mr. Chairman, we are increasing the number of refugees we resettle annually in the United States. We already resettle more refugees than other resettlement countries combined – but we are committed to increasing that number – from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 in 2016 and then to 100,000 in the following year; at least 10,000 Syrians will be resettled in the United States in the coming year.
In light of the UN’s severe funding shortfalls, it is of the utmost importance that scarce dollars are used as effectively as possible. The upcoming Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank provide an opportunity to explore ways to provide development aid and financing to help societies hosting refugees. We want to ensure the citizens of these countries do not suffer for having done the right thing. In this regard, we are eager to review the recommendations coming out of the UN’s High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, allow me to say a word of thanks to the High Commissioner, who has so ably led this organization through a decade of unimaginable human suffering. I have rarely seen a leader whose staff respected him so much. I have had the great pleasure and privilege of many hours spent with him including of work discussions, dinners, and casual conversations. I and my colleagues learned so much from him whether we were traveling together by SUV across Burkina Faso, running across Charles de Gaulle airport, or traversing the U.S. Capitol or here at the Palais. We all know that Antonio Guterres is a very rare individual. We wish you nothing but the very best in your next challenge, whatever it is, and wherever it takes you. Godspeed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.