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Assistant Secretary Anne Richard: UNHCR #ExCom2016 Statement
October 3, 2016

A.RichardUNHCR ExCom 67th Session
Plenary Statement

Delivered by Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard

October 3, 2016


Two weeks ago in New York, the first high-level meeting of UN member states took place to discuss large movements of refugees and migrants.  There, governments unanimously committed to develop two global compacts:  one on refugees; the other on migrants.  In light of the enormous and growing number of uprooted people around the world, our united work on these two compacts over the next two years is urgently needed. It is a valuable opportunity to do better in sharing the global responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable people.

This meeting in New York was followed by a remarkable Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, where 49 countries and several international organizations committed to increase humanitarian aid, provide more opportunities for refugee resettlement and other legal pathways, and increase the number of refugee children and youth who will be able to go to school and the number of refugees who can work legally.

In his remarks at the Summit, President Obama said, “As Americans, we’re determined to do our part.”  In 2016, the United States is providing an unprecedented $7 billion in humanitarian aid – including $1.5 billion to UNHCR.  As part of the Leaders’ Summit, U.S.-based NGOs also pledged to raise $1.2 billion in funding from the public for humanitarian assistance and 51 private sector firms responded to a White House Call to Action to do more than $650 million.  Recognizing that refugee situations can last for years – years that add up to an entire childhood – UNHCR has stepped up its promotion of education, and governments pledged to enroll a million more children in school next year.  Similarly, important gains for refugees were realized through pledges to allow a million more refugees access to legal work.  We will stay true to our commitments made on September 20 and urge other governments to do the same.

Last Friday, we reached our goal of welcoming more refugees than we have in any of the last 15 years – providing a fresh start to nearly 85,000 of the world’s most vulnerable people.  And we are committed to doing more by resettling up to 110,000 refugees in 2017 – a nearly 60 percent increase from the number admitted to the United States in 2015.  We also want to help other governments increase their resettlement efforts by supporting the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism, a new joint venture by UNHCR and the International Organization Migration that will help resettle 30,000 people over the next three years.  In this regard, we applaud the leadership of countries like Germany and Canada for extending a willing hand to do more to welcome refugees.

This is my fifth year at the Executive Committee representing the United States of America.  Regrettably, each year I have pointed out the growing and unprecedented scale, complexity, duration, and urgency of the humanitarian crises we are facing.  This year will not prove to be the exception.  Last year’s headlines on the human suffering in places like Syria, South Sudan, and the Lake Chad River Basin have only intensified.  The gaps in our international response – too little funding, governments shirking rather than sharing responsibilities, insufficient protection of the vulnerable, scant prospects for durable solutions, few opportunities for refugee children and youth to receive an education, prohibitions against refugees working, and inadequate aid for and protection of IDPs – require new resolve in order to meet the commitments we have made this year.  This resolve was demonstrated in New York – but must not waver in the coming weeks and months.

This past year the United Nations held a Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.   There, a number of governments and aid agencies endorsed the Grand Bargain, a shared commitment to deliver protection and assistance better and more sustainably that was first put forward by the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing.  We look forward to regular discussions with UNHCR on how it is instituting its Grand Bargain commitments, both inside the agency and in cooperation with others, and the sharing of an implementation plan by the end of the year.

Mr. Chairman, in our collective efforts to do better in fulfilling our global responsibilities, I am pleased to highlight one facet of the work of UNHCR – the Safe from the Start Initiative to combat gender-based violence. My government has contributed $30 million to this initiative, which ensures that a response to gender-based violence is included as an essential, life-saving intervention from the start of an emergency.  For example, UNHCR has deployed a gender-based violence expert to numerous emergencies, including Nigeria, Iraq, and Greece and has made strides to institutionalize this position by having it sit within the Division of Emergency Services.  We must do more like this for women and girls and to scale-up programming to meet the enormity of needs that exist.

We also applaud important new and growing partnerships, such as UNHCR’s strengthened partnership with the World Bank.  The United States is pleased to support the Bank’s efforts to provide low- and middle-income countries that host large refugee populations with financing on favorable terms for projects benefiting both refugees and the communities that host them.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, allow me to welcome High Commissioner Grandi to his first EXCOM as the High Commissioner.  He is no stranger to UNHCR and we are fortunate to have someone with his experience serving as High Commissioner.  Never before has the world needed UNHCR more to lead than it does today. We look forward to working with you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman