U.S. Statement to the Pledging Conference of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees

U.S. Statement to the Pledging Conference of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) 

Statement Delivered by Mark Cassayre
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations

Geneva, December 12, 2018

Thank you, Chair.

The United States is a strong supporter of the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to alleviate suffering, provide protection, and respect the dignity of refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.  In fiscal year 2018 alone, our contribution to UNHCR reached a historic high of nearly $1.6 billion to support UNHCR’s response to historic levels of displacement and humanitarian need.  The President’s National Security Strategy states that the United States will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance and that we will provide this generous assistance as close to refugees’ homes as possible in order to meet their needs until they can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity.  In addition, our bilateral Framework for Cooperation with UNHCR outlines shared goals and priorities, as well as mutual expectations in furthering protection outcomes for people assisted by UNHCR.

I am therefore pleased to express my government’s support for the 2019 Global Appeal of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to pledge an initial $125 million towards this appeal.  This matches our initial pledge for 2018.

It is encouraging to know that most of UNHCR’s budget – 85 percent – will be spent in the field, and that UNHCR continues to make serious strides towards agency-widereform efforts, including its Grand Bargain commitments, that will ensure maximum efficiency, transparency, and due diligence within the organization.  These are key priorities for the United States, especially the commitments to joint needs assessments that underpin prioritized humanitarian planning and appeals and reduced management costs; we need to see specific results from these efforts.

Multiple large-scale crises compounded by continuing humanitarian needs from protracted crises around the world have required tremendous responses by UNHCR, its partners, and Member States to ensure that vulnerable people receive the protection and assistance that they need.  This requires UNHCR to ensure that strong accountability measures are in place at every stage of a response, including establishing controls to regularly identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor risk.  As UNHCR’s largest single donor, we need assurances from senior management that there is sufficient and effective oversight of our significant financial contributions to this organization. We are concerned with increasing reports of gaps and weaknesses in UNHCR programs and will be closely monitoring UNHCR’s follow-up actions as a result.

We commend and appreciate the significant contributions of the many States hosting refugees while also noting the need for continued commitment and burden sharing.  More must be done to share the financial burden.  It is simply unsustainable to rely on a handful of donors to address billions of dollars in needs.  We acknowledge the work UNHCR has undertaken to date in emphasizing comprehensive, multi-year solutions strategies, as well as its growing partnership with international financial institutions, including the World Bank, with the private sector, and others to improve the lives of UNHCR’s beneficiaries, including better addressing relief and development coherence.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not recognize the heroic efforts of UNHCR staff around the world, who work on behalf of refugees and other vulnerable people every single day, oftentimes in dangerous places and incredibly challenging circumstances.  We appreciate all that you do.

Thank you.