On the Occasion of World Refugee Day (June 20)
World Refugee Day is an opportunity to recognize the courage and the struggles of millions of refugees who have fled their homes due to persecution and conflict. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of those forcibly displaced worldwide rose to nearly 80 million in 2019. The United States reaffirms its commitment to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes for the millions of displaced people around the world. To this end, the U.S. National Security Strategy directs us to continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance and to support displaced people as close to their homes as possible to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Refugee Act, which established the Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs that evolved into the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The Refugee Act was the first comprehensive piece of U.S. legislation designed to address the realities of modern refugees by providing flexible mechanisms to address rapidly shifting refugee situations.
From Venezuela to Syria and Afghanistan, to South Sudan and Burma, the United States is a catalyst for international humanitarian crisis response. It is essential for the international community to work together to be effective in addressing the crises that drive displacement and lead to dire situations. This starts with the responsibility of the governments involved and their regional partners to take steps to end conflict quickly and to create safe conditions for their people. By focusing on ending conflicts and by providing assistance to prevent further displacement, we can help mitigate the destabilizing effects displacement has on affected countries and their neighbors.
The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide, continuing a tradition of generosity. In Fiscal Year 2019, the United States provided more than $9.5 billion, and over the past decade we have provided nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance. This assistance reaches tens of millions of displaced and crisis-affected people worldwide, providing urgent, life-saving support and services, including food, shelter, health care, education, and access to safe drinking water. U.S. support for host countries, provided through contributions to humanitarian organizations, encourages them to continue providing shelter and increasing access to work, education, and public services for those fleeing persecution.
But the United States cannot address these needs alone. We work tirelessly to encourage our partners and allies to share the burden and to ensure limited resources are used in a coordinated and effective manner toward sustainable solutions. Our calls for greater resources from the broadest possible group of donors, including governments and the private sector, are essential to address these urgent and growing needs. We applaud those who are making critical contributions to support refugees throughout the world. We will continue to work with international organizations, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, and refugee-hosting countries to find sustainable solutions to displacement while we simultaneously seek lasting political solutions to the conflicts that drive it.