Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 18, 2020
Thank you, Nicolas, and thank you, High Commissioner Grandi, for your briefing today.
The United States commends UNHCR’s efforts to assist and empower millions of refugees and internally displaced and stateless people around the globe. Especially in times like this, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the thousands of aid workers in the field who are not only staying and delivering assistance to the most vulnerable, but they are doing so at the very real risk to their own health and safety. And I think that’s very important that we really reiterate in every statement that we have, our appreciation for these aid workers, and the fact that they are risking their lives – and many times their families – in order to help others. So, to all those aid workers, including all on your team, I want to express our sincere gratitude for being the front line.
UNHCR’s task of addressing multiple global crises – from Syria to Venezuela, Burma to South Sudan – while also responding to a global pandemic, is daunting. However, we are confident that this challenge that UNHCR – with sufficient burden-sharing from donors, refugee-hosting countries, and the private sector – can tackle.
UNHCR is a key partner whose work complements U.S. humanitarian policy and assistance around the world. The U.S. Government is the largest single donor to UNHCR, providing nearly $1.7 billion in funding in fiscal year 2019. We support UNHCR’s efforts to ensure it is fit for purpose, and as effective and efficient as possible. We appreciate how it has adapted its approaches through new initiatives that promote self-reliance and interim solutions, as well as how it has established new or expanded modes of assistance. UNHCR has pursued serious and comprehensive reform efforts over the past few years, and we expect that its internal transformation processes will indeed result in a more agile, accountable, and innovative organization.
UNHCR’s work in response to COVID-19 is helping mitigate the spread of the virus among forcibly displaced persons, who remain at great risk while living closely in densely populated areas with poor sanitation and poor healthcare. While the peak of the COVID virus may still be weeks or months away in many regions, we have seen rapid and determined responses to flatten the curve in very challenging circumstances. Along with these responses, we must continue to be vigilant and ensure that contingency plans are in place to support and protect the most vulnerable amongst us.
Before I conclude, High Commissioner Grandi, I would like to ask you a question: As we all seek to continue supporting principled humanitarian action from this platform, we wish to enhance international cooperation; galvanize support for more equitable and predictable burden and responsibility sharing; and ensure principled, safe, voluntary, dignified, and informed refugee returns. And I’m going to say that again, because it’s so important that we are all speaking to these refugees and to let them know that we will be ensuring, as a Council, principled, safe, voluntary, dignified, and informed refugee returns. So, I would like to know, as a Council member and as the United States, what can we do, what can I do, to advance these aims?
And once again, I just want to thank your frontline workers for being out front there to try and mitigate this virus.