SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Thank you, Julieta, and thanks to everyone for coming together. This is an incredibly busy week, to understate. We’re all torn and pulled in different directions. The fact that this group is around this table today I think speaks to a profound shared commitment to the plight of the refugees and the imperative that we work together in ever-closer ways to effectively respond to the needs that we see.
So Julieta, to you; to Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security advisor, who will join us I think shortly and is playing an instrumental role in our own policy, I just want to thank everyone, first of all, for the enduring commitment to supporting displaced people around the globe.
Look, we all know this. It may not be as known to some of our fellow citizens, but we all know that we meet at what is truly an unprecedented moment. We have more than 110 million people around the globe displaced from their homes, and that includes more than 35 million refugees. Two million of that 35 million are exceptionally vulnerable people who need to move to another country this year to get the protection that they need.
The scale of this challenge, of this crisis, has I think exacerbated what had been longstanding gaps in the global system for refugee resettlement, but it’s also taught us some important lessons and given rise to effective innovations to address the challenges that we face. So last year on the margins of the General Assembly, the United States launched the Resettlement Diplomacy Network together with six countries and the European Commission. And the goal was this: to create a dedicated space for our governments to be able to work together – senior levels – so that we can share best practices; we can help relieve strain on nations that are temporarily hosting refugees and, in some cases, not so temporarily; and deliver better solutions for displaced people and the communities that welcome them.
So here we are one year later and I’m really pleased to be able to chair this first ministerial meeting where we will discuss three initial lines of effort that we’ve been engaged in together.
First, we are working to strengthen and expand the global resettlement system, and one way we’re doing that is by creating what we call a red phone – an emergency coordination platform for senior leaders to collaborate quickly and directly in times of crisis so that we can get more people to safety more quickly.
Second, we are teaming up to respond more effectively to ongoing crises including finding homes for people who are fleeing Afghanistan. As we continue to deliver on our commitments to the Afghan people, our nations will use this network to build upon the innovations that we’ve developed over the last two years, from creating new legal pathways for Afghans to finding new ways to share information on individual resettlement cases so that refugees get to the right destinations.
Third, we’ll use our collective diplomatic muscle to help one another and countries beyond this network to expand and improve legal pathways and address the obstacles – things like fees, exit permits – that are slowing down resettlement efforts. And as we do, I know we’re all committed to helping protect the most vulnerable populations that are refugees, including the LGBTI+ community, and we’ll look for opportunities to help the regions with the greatest need: Southeast Asia, Mediterranean, and right here in the Western Hemisphere.
Just to give one example, in June, the United States helped launch a new program, the Safe Mobility initiative, to improve access to resettlement and other legal avenues to our country and to other countries including Spain, including Canada. In partnership with Guatemala, with Costa Rica, with Colombia, we’ve opened regional offices where refugees and migrants can access screenings and referral information in their own communities.
So what does this mean? It means that they won’t need to undertake the incredibly hazardous journey toward our border and it will help put less pressure on that border and other border regions. Through the Resettlement Diplomacy Network, we will foster and deepen more collaborations like this one.
We all know this around this table: When it comes to meeting the challenges facing refugees, our countries can do so much more together than any one of us can do alone. This sense of solidarity – the solidarity that is expressed by the fact that we’re together in this network at this table – is really at the heart of what we’re doing and I think it’s going to be critical to our success going forward. But I see it across governments, I see it across groups who are represented in this room.
And finally, what’s been so powerful I think to all of us who have been involved in this is that we see it in our citizens too: those who have jumped into action donating food, donating clothing for displaced Ukrainians; those who helped find and furnish homes for refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; those who welcomed Afghan refugees at our airports, took them to buy groceries, brought them to doctors, helped enroll their kids in school. This is what we see in community after community in my country and I know in all of yours.
So when we have citizens like these as partners, when we have the collaboration of this network, I know that we can do even more to meet the moment and provide refuge to those who so desperately need it.
So to each and every one of you, thank you for being here today.