Palais des Nations
Geneva, October 6, 2015
Mr. High Commissioner, Your Excellencies, colleagues, friends:
It’s a pleasure to welcome you here this evening to mark the occasion of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting. As you are all aware, the challenges for the humanitarian community this year are without parallel or precedent, and it is encouraging to witness first-hand the commitment of so many UNHCR staff, member states, and other stakeholders to make a difference.
The United States shares that commitment, and the attention in my government and among the American people on humanitarian issues has never been higher. As many of you know, I’m particularly struck by the horrific impact of conflicts on women and girls around the world. The U.S. Mission’s initiative “The Future She Deserves” is designed in part to protect women and girls from violence; through it, we aim to leverage Geneva’s unique multilateral platform to raise awareness, to identify creative means of collaboration and, most importantly, to craft solutions.
As part of this collaboration, U.N. Director-General Møller and I launched Geneva Gender Champions, a leadership network committed to promoting gender equality. I am confident that both of these initiatives can advance the work of UNHCR and its partners in confronting the compelling challenges the humanitarian crises of the day present to us all.
Now, because this is likely the last Executive Committee meeting with High Commissioner Guterres, I would like to take a moment to recognize a few of his exceptional contributions to UNHCR over the past ten years.
Antonio, as you so eloquently noted in your EXCOM speech yesterday, so much has changed since you started as High Commissioner, with the work of organizations like UNHCR becoming much more difficult and hazardous.
You have led UNHCR during a time of massive growth due to increased complex crises with, as you mentioned, more than 40,000 people now globally displaced by conflict every single day. But your determination never waivered.
Against this backdrop, you helped UNHCR develop its global needs-based budget, strengthen and professionalize its workforce, and increase private sector partnership and funding.
Focusing on solutions, you brought together development and humanitarian actors, giving refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs, and stateless persons the global attention they deserve.
Your mastery of finance, finesse with member states, and most importantly, your profound commitment to UNHCR’s protection mandate will be tough to match. Thank you, António, for your tireless effort.
This reception is an opportunity to commend UNHCR, and you Antonio, for the great work you have done. The current needs sorely outpace the resources available to address them, but you and your team have done an amazing job keeping up with the challenge. And, for that, the world is grateful.
With that, I’d now like to turn it over to Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, who spends countless hours mobilizing U.S. support for vulnerable victims of conflict, and ensuring that the visibility of this issue never wavers.
Anne, the floor is yours.