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Margaret Pollack on International Protection at UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting agenda item on protection

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would also like to thank the Assistant High Commissioner for her remarks today.

The United States’ commitment to the protection of refugees, asylum seekers, displaced populations, stateless persons, and other persons of concern to UNHCR remains strong. As we mark the 60th anniversary of UNHCR’s creation, the U.S. Government is proud of our long history of support to UNHCR as it has pursued its mandate to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Protection is an intrinsic goal of the humanitarian diplomacy and programming of the United States. While U.S. protection efforts may not always achieve the results we desire, we know beyond doubt that our work in concert with UNHCR and Member States has saved countless lives during the past six decades and has protected tens of millions of people from persecution and violations of their rights during their search for safety.

None of us here today is new to the challenges — and the imperative — of providing protection. To better prepare ourselves within the U.S. Government for the complex protection challenges facing us today and into the future, we adopted last month, for the first time, an internal policy on protection that will push us to consider more affirmatively our protection goals and to articulate more clearly what protection means to us as UNHCR’s partner. I want to underscore that this does not signal that the U.S. Government is significantly altering its promotion of protection. Rather, our written internal policy on protection will serve as a tool — a strategic framework — that we will use to help organize our approach and maximize our efforts as we work to address the broad range of protection threats that confront the large and diverse populations of concern to UNHCR and my government.

We have defined protection as follows: “Measures to safeguard the rights of…populations of concern by seeking to prevent or end patterns of violence or abuse; alleviate the trauma and related effects of violence and abuse; identify and promote durable solutions; foster respect for refugee, humanitarian and human rights law; and ensure that humanitarian actions uphold human dignity, benefit the most vulnerable, and do not harm affected populations.” This definition draws upon basic protection principles expressed by UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and various nongovernmental organizations. The U.S. Government will apply these principles in our own efforts to fulfill protection commitments as we monitor the efforts of UNHCR and other states.

Our protection policy articulates four broad goals. The first is to address or prevent violations of human rights and acts that undermine humanitarian principles. It is well understood that effective protection seeks to prevent violations before they occur or stop abuses that are taking place. In our pursuit of this first goal, we will continue to work with UNHCR and Member States to address the most egregious violations affecting populations of concern. We will encourage UNHCR to respond and report aggressively on instances of refoulement and forced return. We will continue to speak out, unilaterally and with other Member States, against incidents of armed attacks and gender-based violence which violate international law, and seek to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian agencies. The emergency in the Horn of Africa is currently the most prominent example of the challenges we face collectively in addressing and preventing serious protection concerns.

Our second policy goal is to fill protection gaps. This refers to the need to strengthen the tools, the systems, and the international architecture that already exist to render protection. In pursuit of this goal, the U.S. Government will continue to support and promote universal adherence to international law obligations under international refugee law, humanitarian law, and human rights law, and acts consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and other principles such as fair refugee status determination procedures, family reunification, registration and documentation procedures for populations of concern, and the pursuit of durable solutions. Wherever these basic protection tools are ignored or applied incorrectly, a protection gap exists.

Third, we aim to strengthen and monitor standards, indicators, and institutional capacities for protection. This goal applies directly to the management and operational functions of UNHCR and other humanitarian partners. We will continue to encourage interagency protection coordination, improved protection skills and capacities, and establishment of appropriate indicators to measure protection impact. We will monitor UNHCR’s performance on all these fronts.

Our fourth protection goal is to address more effectively the distinct protection challenges posed by diverse populations of concern. We support UNHCR’s deeper engagement with internally displaced populations, mixed migration flows, and statelessness issues in recent years, as well as UNHCR’s efforts to develop improved policies and guidelines to protect unaccompanied and separated children, urban refugees, LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups and individuals. Vulnerable migrants often face appalling abuses yet may not fall under traditional definitions of refugees or displaced persons. Some who begin their journey as economic migrants are rendered especially vulnerable due to lack of immigration documentation; their status should not make them any less deserving of protection. UNHCR’s own Ten-Point Plan of Action laudably addresses these very issues. And we welcome the MOU signed by UNHCR and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as reflected in the year’s Note on International Protection, with a particular focus on combating racism and related xenophobia as a key protection priority. While we affirm that broad protection principles apply to all populations of concern, we are sensitive to the fact that each population group is prone to encounter unique or distinct protection threats and may therefore require different solutions. We recognize that UNHCR staff, as well as our own personnel, require a sophisticated degree of knowledge and enhanced skills to protect this diverse range of populations.

Mr. Chairman, as we pursue these goals, we will continue to work with UNHCR, other governments, and partners to advance durable solutions for protracted refugee situations. For example, many speakers have raised the of Bhutanese refugees this week. We remain unwavering in our support for Bhutanese refugee resettlement. At the same time, we believe the right of refugees to return to Bhutan is important. We strongly urge the Government of Bhutan to do its part to contribute to a solution to the protracted refugee situation of Bhutanese refugees by immediately accepting for repatriation refugee cases of special humanitarian concern.

In conclusion, the United States is motivated by a determination to be as strategic, relentless, and formidable as possible in our efforts on behalf of international protection. With this policy as our organizing framework, we will continue to work with UNHCR and other Member States to strengthen protection of the world’s persecuted and uprooted people. This December, Member States will have a unique opportunity to signal their respective commitments to international protection at the ministerial-level meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Statelessness Convention. We challenge everyone in this room to do their part in preparing pledges for this historic event.


Ambassador Robinson Addresses the UNHCR Executive Committee

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for your leadership of this Committee over the past year. And thank you, Mr. High Commissioner, for your remarks this morning. And Mr. High Commissioner, thank you for your extraordinary personal leadership over this past year. You have been a tireless advocate on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people and have been a strong and persuasive voice for reform and enhancement of the international system. Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, 2011 has witnessed new crises and new opportunities. The promise of democracy throughout the Arab world is encouraging – and UNHCR’s assistance to those seeking protection from the civil unrest throughout the region is to be commended.

It is the human tragedy in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa, however, which I will use today as a lens for my remarks – and for five basic observations.

First, protection must be the fundamental goal of the international community – and UNHCR’s leadership has never been more essential. Whether the threat is forced return of refugees, improper denial of asylum, gender-based violence, blockages of humanitarian access or restrictions on freedom of movement, UNHCR must be ready to act. Organizational pressures must never be allowed to outweigh or slow-down the response to protection concerns.

Second, no one government or agency can do it alone. Nurturing and valuing long-standing partnerships while developing new ones must be the operational foundation of UNHCR’s work. These partnerships are essential to UNHCR’s role in the UN cluster system, to implementation of its urban refugee policy and Transitional Solutions Initiative, to responding effectively in emergencies when UNHCR’s capacity is stretched across major and sometimes multiple crises at once, and to meeting so many more humanitarian assistance and protection needs. Organizational mandate must never stand in the way of timely and adequate assistance.

Third, UNHCR’s response to emergencies is the most visible element of its work. It is the one that makes the headlines. Scaling up quickly to new crises must be the operating norm, not simply a plan on paper. Organizational capacity must be strengthened by a human resources policy that delivers good performance in emergency situations.

Fourth, results-based management and the ability to measure performance is no longer a new concept. It has been a major part of UNHCR’s vocabulary for nearly a decade. However, the report of the Board of Auditors for 2010 is troubling in its examination of progress. Organizational inertia must not be allowed to stand in the way of a structured and digestible analysis of progress and impact that can steer senior leadership towards priorities for intervention.

Fifth, and finally, humanitarian diplomats and humanitarian implementers must work hand-in-hand. No longer is just physical and legal assistance enough. Solutions to long-standing refugee situations require sustained and strengthened involvement in policy advocacy. We must be relentless, formidable, and effective advocates for victims of persecution, violence, and human rights abuses. We must be emboldened by a very broad conception of our humanitarian and protection responsibilities. Organizational working methods must be supported by skillful and aggressive humanitarian diplomacy at every level, as the High Commissioner so eloquently demonstrated.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the United States remains a committed partner with UNHCR and the beneficiaries it serves. We are providing more than $680 million dollars this year to the organization to assist its work across all four pillars defining its populations of concern – refugee assistance, refugee returns and reintegration, the internally displaced, and stateless persons. We know the work is not always easy – nor the solutions fast enough. We continue to salute UNHCR’s staff for what they do in often very difficult and dangerous environments. And we are resolved to continue our work as a member of the international community represented in this room today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Ambassador Donahoe’s Response to the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States welcomes the High Commissioner’s opening statement. At this moment, when the world is witnessing many societies in political upheaval and transition, we appreciate and applaud her central point that accountable, transparent institutions that respect human rights are essential for successful political transitions to strong stable governance. As she notes, the Human Rights Council has led global calls for accountability for gross violations of human rights through its creation and dispatch of international commissions of inquiry to Libya, Syria, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Yet, the Secretary General’s report on “Cooperation with United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights” illustrates that some governments persist in refusing to grant access to international mandate holders, hamper independent assessments, and continue to subject human rights defenders who collaborate with mandate holders to intimidation and reprisals. We concur with the High Commissioner’s assessment that the Human Rights Council must make it a priority to solve the problem of lack of cooperation with UN mechanisms in the field of human rights. As she underscored, the “protection of civilians in situations of violence must be the focus of our collective efforts,” and we agree that gaps between initiatives by the HRC and needs on the ground must be kept in sharp focus so that we live up to our shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.

In this session, we look forward to interactive dialogues on Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Belarus, Somalia, and Cambodia.

In the case of Syria, we look forward to hearing the preliminary facts that have emerged about atrocities committed by Syrian authorities. Unfortunately, Syrian authorities prohibited the OHCHR fact finding mission from entering Syria to conduct their investigation, but the FFM will report on credible evidence they have uncovered through other means. The HRC held an urgent session in August to institute an international commission of inquiry to investigate the extremely alarming allegations emerging from Syria and will report later this year as well. The United States commends this body for its sustained efforts in this case.

Close attention by the international community provides hope to the people subject to government brutality, and helps highlight the Syrian regime’s gross human rights abuses. We call on the Syrian government to expeditiously allow the commission of inquiry into the country and allow an unfettered, objective and independent investigation. We also reiterate the Council’s demand for the Syrian government to immediately stop killing, imprisoning, and torturing its people.

The commission of inquiry for Libya has overseen an extremely volatile human rights crisis, and received alarming reports of brutality, mass summary execution, and disappearances. We look forward to learning how we can further support accountability for human rights in Libya.

The High Commissioner has highlighted the serious human rights situation in Sudan and has published a report which describes a wide range of alleged human rights violations in South Kordofan since June of this year. The flare up of violence in the state of South Kordofan is of grave concern to all, and is now spreading to the neighboring border state of Blue Nile. The United States believes that the International Expert mandate for Sudan must be renewed so that monitoring and reporting on this urgent situation can continue.

We join the High Commissioner in welcoming South Sudan as the newest member of the United Nations. We agree that with the assistance of the international community, South Sudan has the opportunity to build a democratic and prosperous country based on the rule of law, good governance and human rights.

We share in the High Commissioner’s concern about inter-communal violence that has killed scores of civilians and put the lives of human rights defenders and UN staff at risk, and will look for ways to support the South Sudanese government as it works to stop the violence.

The High Commissioner also focused on the dire food emergency in the Horn of Africa, where the United States and our partners are racing to save as many lives as possible. The United States is the largest single-country contributor of food and humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region exceeded $600 million this year, reaching more than 4.6 million people. However, a hunger crisis is not solely an act of God. It is a complex problem of conflict, infrastructure, governance, markets, and education.

In the long term, good governance, human rights, and the rule of law are key to creating the sustainability that can mitigate or even prevent future food crises.

The United States thanks the High Commissioner for her remembrance of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington ten years ago. We condemn all acts of terrorism, and extend our sincere condolences to the victims and their families of the vicious attack on the UN facility in Abuja last month.

Thank you, Madame President.


Ambassador Donahoe’s Letter to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay

The following is the text of a July 8, 2011 letter from Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay.

Dear Madame High Commissioner,

I am writing to express how deeply disturbed I am by a cartoon recently posted by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk on his blog. The cartoon depicts a dog labeled “USA” and wearing a Jewish head cover urinating upon a female meant to depict Justice; the dog is simultaneously chewing on bloody human bones. This is a clear example of hateful speech, and I deplore it in the strongest terms.

Special Rapporteurs are supposed to be impartial, objective, and demonstrate personal integrity. Mr. Falk’s behavior is not consistent with these qualities, and his lack of judgment in posting this cartoon is stunning, even if he has subsequently removed it from his blog. Notwithstanding his retraction, that Special Rapporteur Falk should have even temporarily endorsed such a cartoon by posting it on his personal blog demonstrates that he is unfit to serve in his role. I regret that statements in the media about this issue attributed to the OHCHR do not come near to addressing its seriousness.

I would respectfully request that you join me in condemning this hateful speech, and in making clear that hate speech has no place in the UN system.


Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council


Check out 2011 Hours Against Hate!


U.S. Contributes $126.8 Million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The United States is pleased to announce a contribution of $126.8 million toward the 2011 operations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The contribution, funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, will support UNHCR’s programs worldwide, including refugee returns to such places as Afghanistan and the Sudan; local integration and resettlement; and protection and life-saving assistance. U.S. funding supports the provision of water, shelter, food, healthcare, and education to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other persons under UNHCR’s care and protection in countries such as Iraq, Colombia, Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.

The contribution will directly support UNHCR’s Annual and Supplementary Program activities as indicated below.

Africa $ 39.9 million
Asia and Pacific $ 23.0 million
Europe $ 3.8 million
Global Operations $ 7.9 million
Middle East $ 49.4 million
Western Hemisphere $ 2.8 million
TOTAL $ 126.8 million

With this contribution, the United States will have provided more than $285 million toward UNHCR’s 2011 operations so far this year.

We note that this year is the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

We salute the vital and courageous work of UNHCR, its many NGO partners, and refugee hosting countries in providing protection to vulnerable people around the world.


The United States Supports Social Responsibility and Human Rights Training for Colombian Businessmen

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the launching of the first Professional Certificate Program on “Social Responsibility and Human Rights in Business.” The event was held at the UN Information Center in Bogotá on June 24, 2010.

This joint event was organized by the Corporación Red Local del Pacto Global en Colombia (Local Corporate Network of Global Pact in Colombia), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

USAID director for Colombia Ken Yamashita; Human Rights Attaché at the German Embassy Matthias Braun, UN Representative in Colombia Aldo Lalle-Demoz and UNHCR representative Terry Morel, among others attended the event.

The project’s main objective is to endorse educational agreements that may provide training to businessmen in Cundinamarca, Santander, Norte de Santander, Caldas, Valle, Risaralda, Atlántico and Cesar. It seeks to create awareness on the importance to prevent the negative effects of business operations related to human rights, forced displacement and corruption that may hold a negative effect on the rights of nearby communities, its workers or the environment.

The Professional Certificate Program includes virtual and real-time classes. The syllabus includes concept documents, analysis of business cases, risk analysis and the creation of a human rights business integration plan.

USAID’s Human Rights program seeks to strengthen human rights prevention and the response to violations. It helps to protect human rights defenders and activists, as well as other vulnerable groups or individuals. It also promotes public policies, strengthens NGOs and supports victims so they may achieve their right to truth, justice and reparation.

Bogotá, C.C., June 25, 2010


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