Palais des Nations,
October 4, 2016
Good evening. High Commissioner Grandi; Your Excellencies; colleagues; friends: I feel that this is a moment of truth for all of us.
After a lot of hard work – by many of you here tonight – we now have new commitments coming out of the New York Declaration and the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.
UNHCR is taking the lead. The international community is mobilized. And the U.S. government is stepping up, surpassing our own targets and increasing our humanitarian aid. I think we all agree, Mr. High Commissioner, when you say that the world does not want all these intentions to remain simply on paper.
So tonight, on the occasion of UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting, we are here to reiterate our resolve to address a crisis that is one of the most urgent tests of our time – and to reaffirm our support to UNHCR in its efforts to help the staggering number of forcibly displaced people around the world.
I traveled to Tanzania a few weeks ago to visit with refugees, and I saw firsthand the incredibly complex operations and the incredibly positive impact UNHCR staff and programs are having on the men, women and children in need of assistance. What they are able to achieve on the ground with the host government and communities in spite of the challenges and danger they face is truly remarkable.
As many of you know, I’m particularly struck by the horrific impact of conflicts on so many women and girls around the world. Protecting and empowering this vulnerable population is a priority for my Mission, it’s a priority for the United States, and I’m grateful for the engagement and support of UNHCR and its partners, who are critical to this effort.
Now, because it’s likely the last ExCom meeting with Assistant Secretary Richard, I want to take a moment to recognize a few of her exceptional contributions over the past years. Anne, you have led PRM during a time of massive growth, characterized by an increasing number of complex crises. Your determination never wavered – far from it.
You’ve helped the U.S. government strengthen multilateral humanitarian diplomacy. You launched ‘Safe from the Start’ to invest in systematic change to better prevent and respond to gender-based violence. You oversaw the expansion of refugee resettlement to the U.S. And you steadfastly supported UNHCR as the organization continued to evolve over difficult times. Thank you, Anne, for your dedication and for being – as Secretary Kerry described you –“a tireless advocate on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
There is a daunting amount of work to be done. Around the world, more than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, including over 21 million refugees – more than half of which are children. As President Obama said in NY exactly two weeks ago, we are facing a crisis of epic proportions.
It’s in this context that tonight’s reception is an opportunity to commend UNHCR, the High Commissioner, and his staff for the great work they are doing. The current needs outpace the resources to address them, but you’ve been doing an admirable job keeping up.
For my part, I am committed to raising the profile of humanitarian issues within my government and with the American people – and I look forward to working with you to advance humanitarian assistance to displaced and stateless persons over the coming year.
With that, I would like to turn it over to Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Anne Richard.
Thank you all for coming. Anne, the floor is yours.