Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
September 7, 2023
MODERATOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the United States Embassy here in Chad. We’re very pleased to have you here. We’re pleased to be able to welcome you today for this press conference (inaudible) and we’re (inaudible) to hear from Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and also a member of Joe Biden’s cabinet – President Joe Biden – and also the High Commissioner – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. We’re very pleased that they’re both here. They’ve both been in Chad visiting the east to assess the situation, the humanitarian crisis and the needs there, and to rally international support. So they’ll have some remarks and then we’ll have a question-and-answer period, and then Nate Evans, the Director of Communications for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, will moderate the questions.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Hello, everyone, and good evening. Thank you so much for being here, and thank you for being here so late. Yesterday I visited Adré to meet with Sudanese refugees and humanitarian workers. And I am so pleased to have High Commissioner Grandi here with me this evening because he was there in those same locations today. So, we had very much a coordinated visit to the field.
The refugees I met were extraordinarily grateful to have some semblance of safety, thanks to the heroic effort of UNHCR and others like you. I want to take this opportunity here to thank the High Commissioner, and to thank his team, for the extraordinary work that they are doing.
They were dealing with refugees who were scared and traumatized. And many have been victims of unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias. Burning and looting of homes; ethnically motivated killings; the use of sexual violence – this is what so many refugees faced before they got to Chad. And we all must work toward justice and accountability for these people.
Yesterday I announced U.S. sanctions on Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, a senior commander in Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces and the brother of RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. We sanctioned him for his connections to abuses by the RSF against civilians in Sudan. And I also announced U.S. visa restrictions on RSF general and West Darfur commander Abdul Rahman Juma for his involvement in gross violations of human rights.
But accountability alone is not enough. We must support the victims of these atrocities. And while I saw that many basic needs are being met, I also saw that many refugees still lack access to health care, adequate shelter, and other essentials. Humanitarian workers are doing everything in their effort, in their power to respond to this crisis. And UNHCR is building more refugee camps to host new arrivals.
But we know – we know this emergency response effort is seriously underfunded, and that is unacceptable. At this perilous moment, the Sudanese people are looking to the world for help, and the United States is committed to answering that call.
Yesterday while in Adré, I announced the U.S. is providing nearly $163 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Sudan and neighboring countries, including Chad. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to nearly $710 million for the Sudan emergency. But the United States cannot do this alone – too many countries are sitting on the sidelines while the Sudanese people suffer. The Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023 is less than 30 percent funded.
Here, with the High Commissioner standing next to me, I’m calling on other countries to bolster their humanitarian contributions. History will judge us for how we’ve responded. This moment is a test for the international community. It is a test of our shared humanity.
High Commissioner, I’m grateful for all you and your team do, and what you’re doing to respond to this emergency. The United States is committed to working with UNHCR to prepare for the next phase of this crisis and address developmental issues. We must act with urgency and at scale. Lives hang in the balance, and we must respond.
HIGH COMMISSIONER GRANDI: Thank you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Why don’t you come over to the podium?
HIGH COMMISSIONER GRANDI: Allow me two words in French, and then I’ll switch back to English.
So let me switch back to English to – and with the translation – to first of all thank you, thank very much the U.S. embassy and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield for hosting my colleagues and me here tonight and have this opportunity to meet with the media. And I have two big thanks to make to begin with.
First and foremost, we are at the U.S. embassy. Thank you very much for the announcement that you have made yesterday and for confirming the extraordinary engagement, humanitarian engagement, of the United States in support of the people of Sudan. The United States is by far the largest contributor to all humanitarian operations regarding the crisis in Sudan, besides, if I may say, being by far the largest contributor to UNHCR operations worldwide.
But my second and equally important thanks is to the people and to the Government of Chad. There are countries with far less resources that would never get near the generosity that we have seen here, 400,000 people in the last basically three or four months. And I think it is important to underline that people have been welcomed here in the country in spite of the extraordinary challenges that citizens of Chad, especially in the east of the country, are facing in terms of hardship. And I am not at all underestimating that the arrival of the refugees represents an additional challenge, but I want to praise the government and the people for their openness and join Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s appeal for more support to this generosity. Nobody should take it for granted.
Just a little aside. My first day here, the day before yesterday, I participated in a ceremony with the minister of interior, (inaudible), the minister of interior, to launch the implementation of two laws that in terms of asylum and treatment of displacement of – of internal displacement are probably among the most progressive in the continent. So this is a policy choice. It’s not just a reflex.
And the – the two other things I wanted to say is that first, the humanitarian effort is colossal – 400,000 people need help, and the local communities hosting them need help. And the humanitarian funding is still very (inaudible). Without forgetting that Chad already hosts another 400,000 Sudanese refugees from before, and many other refugees, the total refugee population of Chad today is 1 million. And this is a country of 17 million people – 1 million refugees. You do the maths.
And the last point I wanted to make is that a strong appeal by the government, which we fully agree, and Linda mentioned that, is that the effort must not be only humanitarian. People are arriving in areas that are very underdeveloped. So the development effort must be parallel with the humanitarian one. And this is why today I visited the east with the managing director and chief of operations of the World Bank.
And she will speak tomorrow to the media, and she will give you her views, but I can tell you already that the World Bank is strongly supporting the effort and strongly supporting the Chadian response to this crisis. It’s quite special that an institution with – like the World Bank can act, can intervene on development issues, education, health, employment, at the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. This is groundbreaking in terms of our response, how aid is managed.
I just want to end by saying that in the end what matters most, however, is peace in Sudan. If thousands of children have died in the early phases of this emergency, if one of my colleagues today showed me on his phone dozens of pictures of people wounded and mutilated on the other side of the border, if 1 million Sudanese have left the country now in different places and the – up to 3 – between 3 and 4 million are displaced inside, the responsibility is with the leaders that are not able or willing to make peace. So the message is to them, first and foremost, to stop this.
MODERATOR: We have time for a couple questions here. We’ll start with – please raise your hand if you have a question. We can start over here.
Sure, please. If you could say your name and outlet.
QUESTION: (In French.)
INTERPRETER: I will start with the last question. So he’s asking —
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Start with the first question.
INTERPRETER: Yeah. So he’s asking – there was a sanction against one of the Sudanese. He’s not the only one who is responsible. So why there was no sanctions against al-Burhan? Is it because he’s an ally of the British?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me answer that question very, very quickly. We have to start somewhere. The people who are crossing the border here in Chad are people who are crossing the border from Darfur. And we have sanctioned one individual who has been identified, has been engaged in that. That does not mean we have stopped – we are not taking sides. Our plan, our goal, is to hold accountable all of those who have engaged in atrocities against the people of Sudan.
HIGH COMMISSIONER GRANDI: (In French.)
I will translate the first question, sorry. He asked that – he said it’s not the first time that refugees come from Sudan. They came a long time ago and there was no development, and now we have a feeling that we have to do all this over again because these things were not done earlier. And he asked us whether we took that into account, in our response, the very high degree of poverty prevailing in eastern Chad?
Do you want to translate this? (In French.)
I can translate it back into English. I said that of course the question is very pertinent. And I think that – I said I don’t want to use the bad words “we take this opportunity.” It’s a very tragic context. But at least on the occasion of this new crisis, let’s use the crisis and respond in an innovative manner in which we do make those investments in education, in health, in livelihoods at the beginning of the crisis.
I was in Chad, I said in my reply, last year. Coincidentally, I was here last year. I went to the east pre-Sudan war. I was shocked by the lack of investment in development. And I think that let’s now not make the same mistakes as in the past. By the way, not only here in Chad; in many other places as well.
MODERATOR: I think we have time for one, one or two more. Sure. And if we could try to please keep it brief, if you can.
QUESTION: The humanitarian situation is dramatic here in Chad. The international mobilization is not at the level expected. The U.S. funds billions for the war in Ukraine. What is lacking for the partners to help Chad, to better help Chad? What can the U.S. do to mobilize the international community to help Chad?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS GREENFIELD: Well, first of all, we are the largest donor to this humanitarian situation. We have already donated $760 million towards this crisis, and part of the reason I’m here is to mobilize and encourage other donors to also contribute to this situation. This is a crisis, and it is one that requires the mobilization of the entire international community. And we will continue to push – not only for other donors to contribute – but we will also continue to contribute ourselves.
QUESTION: I’d like to ask you a question. The announcement that was made yesterday is very important. Some of the funds announced will be destined to Chad. So we are estimating that these funds will help to transfer those refugees into a new site that we are hoping to build – this is concrete information. Without those funds it would be difficult to transfer quickly those people on Adré side. But those funds are not sufficient to do all the job, which is why we need to mobilize more funds to help develop the present government.
MODERATOR: Unfortunately, I think that’s all we have time for. We have to get going to the airport, so I thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me just end by again thanking the people of Chad for the hospitality that you have afforded to the desperate and scared people arriving here from Sudan. And I am committed to doing everything possible on behalf of the U.S. Government to support those efforts. And I want to commend UNHCR and all of the humanitarian workers who are living and working in Chad to support refugees. Without their work, and without their effort, people would be dying.