Statement by the United States in a Third Committee Meeting on the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Courtney R. Nemroff
Acting U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 30, 2019


Thank you, Mr./Madam Chair, and to UNHCR for this report.

The United States and UNHCR remain strong partners in our effort to protect and find durable solutions for the millions of refugees, stateless persons, internally displaced people, and other persons of concern around the world. The United States remains committed to leading the world in humanitarian assistance. In our Fiscal Year 2019, which just closed last month, the U.S. government provided nearly $1.7 billion to UNHCR. However, we also remain committed to promoting burden sharing with our partners and allies, and ensuring greater efficiency, transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of our humanitarian assistance. In this regard, we will continue to press for the fulfillment of commitments made under the Grand Bargain, especially those related to joint needs assessments and the reduction of management costs.

In December we will convene in Geneva for the first-ever Global Refugee Forum. There, we will showcase our overall shared commitment to increase capacity for refugee protection, including U.S. best practices for maximizing the “protection for women and girls” in conflict areas, on education, and on burden sharing. The Forum will also be an opportunity to improve the sustainability of our humanitarian responses and highlight our work through improved coherence between relief and development programming.

Mr./Madam Chair, effective oversight of UNHCR is critical to ensure protection for those most in need and the optimal use of limited resources. The United States recognizes that UNHCR’s mandate requires it to operate in high risk environments. We commend UNHCR for implementing Risk Management 2.0, which helps enhance the UNHCR culture of accountability and strengthens the organization. The risk of fraud and misconduct will never be zero, but UNHCR must minimize it. UNHCR has instituted a number of different measures, including the extensive overhaul of its oversight systems that is still underway. We expect these efforts will help mitigate risk from the start and allow for a faster and more comprehensive response to misconduct should it occur. Responding to ever-growing global displacement and humanitarian needs cannot come at the cost of strong internal controls, prevention of mismanagement, or improvements in oversight.

The United States supports UNHCR’s continued reform efforts to ensure maximum efficiency, transparency, and accountability, as well as its focused efforts to engage with the larger humanitarian system in a more comprehensive and coherent manner. These changes will take consistent effort and an institutional commitment to achieve the desired results. On regionalization, it is important to establish clear lines of accountability. UNHCR has stated that staff should be effectively positioned to make operational decisions in the field, with the aim of strengthening UNHCR’s direct work with refugees and others of concern. We note that this requires strong and competent leadership in the field. We are interested in efforts UNHCR is undertaking to help build the capacity of staff in leadership positions to ensure they are well-equipped for these enhanced responsibilities.

Finally, let me stress our appreciation for UNHCR’s work in addressing multiple global crises. We recognize that this is a daunting challenge. In addition, the United States remains a grateful nation for the tireless efforts of humanitarian workers who risk their personal safety on behalf of the forcibly displaced. To UNHCR leadership and staff alike, we applaud your devotion to serving others through your unbounded dedication and unyielding resolve.

Thank you.