U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the World Refugee Day Event
American Center, Addis Ababa
June 19, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
- Clementine Nkweta-Salami: UNHCR Representative to Ethiopia;
- Ato Eyob Awoké: ARRA Head of Programs;
- Distinguished colleagues and friends.
Good evening, and thank you for coming together to mark World Refugee Day in Ethiopia, and thanks especially to our UNHCR colleagues and the U.S. embassy team for putting together this wonderful event.
World Refugee Day is important everywhere, but nowhere is it more important than in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the second-largest host of refugees in Africa, with over 900,000 refugees from 20 different countries.
We applaud Ethiopia’s steadfast commitment to receiving and supporting refugees, and to working with the international community to address the needs of refugee populations.
This evening, we’re focusing in particular on supporting urban refugees, reflecting our joint efforts to move away from placing refugees in camps toward a more holistic approach of integrating refugees into communities.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, which aims to coordinate the efforts of a wide range of partners — including the United Nations, governments, NGOs, the private sector, international financial institutions, and refugees themselves — to develop more humane and sustainable solutions for people displaced from their homes.
This is an essential initiative, because it’s important for all of us to remember that when we talk about refugees, we’re really talking about people: wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, and children who all deserve lives of dignity, hope, promise, and happiness.
By integrating refugees into communities instead of camps, and by giving them access to educational and employment opportunities, we reduce the burden on countries that host refugees; we build the self-reliance of the refugees themselves; we expand opportunities for resettlement; and we foster conditions that enable refugees to voluntarily return to their home countries with dignity when circumstances permit.
When we help refugees be more independent, better integrated into their communities, and less reliant on humanitarian aid, they not only benefit from their host communities, but they contribute to them as well.
The United States welcomes, and reiterates our strong support for, the efforts of host countries like Ethiopia who are committed to implementing the principles of the CRRF.
As the largest single-country provider of humanitarian assistance worldwide, totaling more than 8 billion dollars in fiscal year 2017, U.S. support reaches millions of refugees and displaced people worldwide every year, providing urgent, life-saving support and helping vulnerable individuals find safety and meet basic needs in their countries of refuge.
Here in Ethiopia, we provided over 76 million dollars this past year for refugee assistance, through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
But even as we remain committed to improving the welfare of refugees as well as their ability to move toward more permanent solutions, we must also remain focused on the reasons that people become refugees in the first place.
Becoming a refugee is a last resort – to leave behind everyplace you know, everything you own, and sometimes everyone you love, not knowing where exactly where you will go or what you will do when you get there: It’s a choice no one should have to make.
To help end the need for such desperate choices, we must remain committed to seeking peaceful ways to end conflict, to encouraging respect for human rights, and to building strong and resilient societies that can withstand unexpected shocks.
We must continue to invest in the capacity of countries to address the needs of their own citizens, and in the capacity of those citizens to chart their own courses to self-sufficiency, peace, health, and prosperity.
And we need to stand firm in upholding universal values of inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for each other as human beings.
So as we mark World Refugee Day, I want to again thank Ethiopia and all countries that host refugees.
I want to thank the governments, civil society organizations, UNHCR, and other international organizations that support effort to care for refugees and to seek ways to find lasting solutions for their well-being.
I want to reiterate the commitment of the United States going forward to supporting these efforts.
And I want to reiterate our commitment to tackling the root causes of displacement, so that someday we might no longer need to hold World Refugee Days at all.