Remarks to the Third Committee on the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 1, 2017


From South Sudan, to Burma, to Syria, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, millions of people across the globe are facing some of the most horrific human rights violations and abuses of our time. We must continue to remind ourselves that when we gather to talk about UNHCR’s efforts, we are not debating abstract principles. We need to stay focused on finding solutions – at their heart; these crises are about individuals and families fleeing for their lives, desperate to find a safe place for themselves and their loved ones until they are able to return to their homes. We must continue to build on the momentum we have generated, to find a better, more effective way to provide protection to those in need and to provide the requisite support to the countries that have opened their borders and to the communities that have opened their homes to refugees. As we strive to increase international responsibility-sharing in refugee responses, we must continue to place protection and human dignity at the center of such efforts.

The United States remains steadfast in our support for the work of UNHCR. Once again, the budget presented for 2018 is UNHCR’s largest to date, reflecting the extraordinary humanitarian needs of forcibly displaced people all over the world in both new and protracted crises. To respond to UNHCR’s appeals to support refugees, IDPs, stateless persons, and others of concern to the organization, we urge all states to support UNHCR’s work – to provide flexible, robust, and predictable funding. The United States provided over $8 billion in humanitarian aid in FY 2017 – representing a historic high – including nearly $1.5 billion to UNHCR. There have been numerous events in 2017 to mobilize international solidarity.

We must all follow through on commitments made to increase contributions and promote refugee inclusion and self-reliance, while diligently working to end conflicts and find durable solutions. However, the gap between what is needed and what is available continues to grow, and the scale and scope of today’s challenges requires all of us to do more and to do it differently, more efficiently, and more effectively. We encourage UNHCR to continue to be as transparent as possible in the execution if its 2018-2019 biennial budget. Maintaining an open dialogue with Executive Committee members, partners, and persons of concern will help maintain trust in the organization and increase predictable funding.

UNHCR must continue to make decisions based on putting people first while maintaining its presence in some of the most difficult and dangerous environments. UNHCR’s work with a broad array of partners to deliver on its mandate is critical in such circumstances. This people-centered approach has a direct impact on planning and budgeting and should continue to guide the tough decisions made to prioritize activities.

We are pleased that UNHCR is undergoing change management in order to adjust its headquarters structure and operations to fit current and future realities, strengthening its internal capacity, strengthening oversight and accountability at all levels, investing in its workforce, and improving systems to be more efficient and agile. In an ever-changing environment, UNHCR needs a combination of a predictable response and innovation. Growing needs require the right number of qualified staff, in the right post, at the right time. Sufficient staff and tools to adequately manage, monitor, and report on UNHCR’s work are critical.

We also commend High Commissioner Grandi for prioritizing the need to strengthen oversight and accountability at all levels and urging UNHCR to strengthen its culture of accountability.

As new opportunities emerge and UNHCR implements its better way of working through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, engaging multi-sectoral partners is key; engaging development and other non-traditional actors is also critical. We talk about additionality to the refugee response and seek to make this real. We must continue to pursue a solutions-oriented approach from the onset of emergencies, even in situations where it seems real solutions are elusive.