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- Remarks at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ministerial on the 60th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
- World Refugee Day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
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- Conversations with America: Haiti in 2011—The Way Forward, The Bureau of Public Affairs
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- US Government Plenary Statement - 61st Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee, The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
- 15th Anniversary of Srenbrenica Genocide, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
- Visit with Burmese Refugees on the Thai-Burma Border, The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
- Mission to Laos, The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
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Deputy Secretary of State -
World Refugee Day
Remarks from Benjamin Franklin Room
June 21, 2012
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard
Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Alejandro Mayorkas
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute
Under Secretary of State, Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero
United Nations High Commission for Refugees Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini
Deputy National Security Advisor to the President Denis McDonough
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICHARD: Good afternoon, everyone. First of all, I would like to welcome everyone to the Ben Franklin Room today, including the Czech ambassador and other members of the diplomatic corps on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and, I am pleased to say, on behalf of our collaborators in this event, the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you all for joining is here to mark a very special occasion.
Welcoming refugees is a core part of who we are as a nation. It reflects our national values. And every year at this time, the Department of State observes World Refugee Day. This year, we are very pleased to be hosting a naturalization ceremony. Nineteen of you entered the United States and entered this room as refugees. You will leave this room as American citizens. Welcome to you, your families, and our other honored guests.
To begin our ceremony, I would like to ask you all to rise for the presentation of colors and our National Anthem. Today, the anthem will be sung by Shayla Moulton. Shayla is an immigration officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
(Colors are presented and National Anthem is sung.)
Thank you. Please be seated. And let's have a round of applause for Shayla Moulton. (Applause.) I don't know what we would have done if Shayla had gotten ill today, because I would not have been able to pull that off. (Laughter.)
It is an honor now to introduce our Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. Deputy Secretary Burns is our top career diplomat. His distinguished 30-year career includes service as Ambassador to Russia and Jordan, as Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and Executive Secretary of the State Department and as assistant to the President and senior director at the National Security Council. I first got to know Bill and his wife, Lisa Carty in the 1990s. Lisa actually served twice in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, so I know that Bill understands the plight of refugees around the world, including those now fleeing the violence in Syria. He strongly supports our efforts to assist them.
As host of today's event, Deputy Secretary Burns will now deliver keynote remarks. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you very much. And it is a singular honor for us at the Department of State to host this naturalization ceremony for the 19 courageous individuals from across the globe joining us today. Each of you has a unique life story and each of you has traveled a long road, literally and figuratively, to get here. But your journey captures the essence of the American experience.
I'm also pleased to welcome so many friends from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the United Nations, including Under Secretary Otero, Assistant Secretary Richard, Deputy Secretary Lute, Director Mayorkas, Deputy National Security Advisor McDonough, and UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini. We are all honored to share this day and this country and its promise with those who will soon become the newest Americans.
I truly cannot think of a better way to commemorate World Refugee Day. In addition to welcoming our newest citizens, today we are calling attention to the plight of over 15 million refugees around the world, uprooted from their homes, searching for a way to renew their lives. Their cause is not at its core political or diplomatic. It is human. And it is championed by generous and compassionate citizens and governments around the world. Today, we celebrate their efforts and redouble our own.
Although this is World Refugee Day, it means something special to the American people. Centuries before the world defined what it means to be a refugee, America was already a refuge. We welcomed to our shores men, women, and children fleeing hunger, poverty, persecution, and desperation, from the Irish potato famine and the Russian pogroms of the 19th century to conflict and instability in East Africa today. Our culture and our character is defined by their contributions, by the Americans they became. It is how we became who we are.
That presents a point of pride, but also a moral challenge. And so we work with international partners to coordinate and strengthen relief response, and we advocate on behalf of displaced peoples to ensure that those who have lost their homes can retain their well-being and their dignity. We also supplement diplomacy with financial assistance as the world's largest single donor to refugee relief efforts. We provided UNHCR with over $690 million in funding last year, part of a larger assistance package aimed at helping refugees and conflict victims that totaled more than $1.8 billion in 2011.
Many of the people we assist all over the world are able to return to their homes, but some resettle in other countries. You joined the ranks of the many millions of other refugees who have resettled in the United States over the past century alone. And you are now following in the footsteps of great Americans, like Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright, and Henry Kissinger, who came here as refugees and made our country stronger by joining our nation as citizens.
None of you were born American; you chose this after being forced on the difficult path of exile and after enduring many sacrifices and hardships to get to this day. Though each of your experiences is unique, you share your motivations for becoming American with millions of immigrants over the centuries. You are here because of the promise of fundamental freedoms and opportunity – or, as one of you eloquently told us, "a new beginning, a new life, and a new hope."
Finally, we also pay tribute to two of our distinguished guests here today who began new lives as Americans and went on to touch the lives of millions of people around the world.
My friend and colleague Maria Otero left her home in Bolivia and immigrated to this country when she was just twelve years old. Her first job in the United States was at a supermarket here in Washington. She went on to become a leader in microfinance and women's empowerment programs worldwide. And we are all deeply fortunate that she then joined us here at the State Department, where, as Under Secretary, she now champions the universal human rights of people all over the world, including refugees.
A refugee himself, Khaled Hosseini turned his childhood experiences, spanning from Afghanistan to California, into The Kite Runner, a book that brought home the refugee experience and life in Afghanistan to many millions of readers and moviegoers. It's a story that spans different worlds and captures the inevitable struggle to move forward with life in a new country while maintaining roots in an old one. In it, he describes the process of bringing a boy from Afghanistan to America as "lifting him from the certainty of turmoil and dropping him in a turmoil of uncertainty."
No doubt that's a description that applies to many of you here today. America is not easy, and there are no guarantees of success here. But you have support, from our government, from Diaspora communities, and from each other. You have a chance to make whatever life you choose here. And just like so many that have come before you, I have every confidence you will seize that opportunity and do remarkable things for yourselves, for your families, and for your new country. We are proud to call you fellow Americans. Congratulations, and I wish you every good fortune in the years ahead.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICHARD: Thank you, Deputy Secretary. I will now turn the floor over to Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Cuban refugee and now the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He is a very valuable colleague. He will lead us through the call of countries and presentation of candidates for citizenship.
MR. MAYORKAS: Thank you very much, and I think it is fair to say that I was not greeted with such elegance and beauty when I was naturalized in – (laughter) – 1972. I do want, if I can, just to say that there are many people in this room who have joined public service to make the lives of others better, to ensure that people can live free of fear of persecution, who can build on their hopes and dreams for a better life – our colleagues from the Department of State, Denis McDonough, the Deputy National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, and my wonderful colleagues from Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate and other parts of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Candidates for citizenship, if you would please rise when I identify your country of origin and remain standing until you are administered the Oath of Allegiance.
Afghanistan, if you would please rise and remain standing. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ethiopia. Iran. Laos. Pakistan. Sierra Leone. Thailand. And Vietnam.
I would like to invite Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute to the podium to administer the Oath of Allegiance. As the second-highest official and chief operating officer in the Department of Homeland Security, Deputy Secretary Lute has over 30 years of military and senior executive experience in the United States Government, and has been integral to U.S. efforts to prevent and resolve international crises. Deputy Secretary Lute, I present to you 19 candidates for naturalization, all of whom have been interviewed by an officer of the service and found to be eligible for naturalization. Please administer the Oath of Allegiance, thereby admitting them to United States citizenship.
DEPUTY SECRETARY LUTE: Thank you, Ale. I wish you all could see their faces. Thank you also to Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, Denis McDonough, and our colleagues at the State Department who play such a crucial role in fulfilling the humanitarian obligations of the United States. It's fitting, and for me it's extraordinary, to be holding this special ceremony in honor of World Refugee Day in a building where dedicated people work tirelessly every day to ensure that the United States continues to welcome more refugees than any other country in the world. Today's ceremony honors millions of men, women, and children worldwide, people like you who are forced to flee their home countries due to persecution or fear of future harm.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my privilege to administer the Oath of Allegiance to the candidates for naturalization assembled here today. Candidates for citizenship, please raise your right hand and repeat after me.
(The Oath is administered.)
Congratulations. (Applause.) Please be seated.
Okay, now you got to tell me, did you ever in your life think you would be here? I was born in New Jersey. I never thought I would be here. (Laughter.) English was not my mother's first language. My grandparents came to this country. Welcome home. To all of you, welcome home. And those of you with little ones, please, let freedom sing. (Laughter.)
I'm honored to be the first person to recognize you as my fellow Americans. Like so many others, each of you has traveled a long and difficult path to be where you are today. Maybe some of you never imagined that one day your journey would lead you to the United States of America, to the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Hoo-ah. And here you are. Here you are.
By becoming citizens today, you've demonstrated just how much you've embraced your new country. We're all so very proud of what you've achieved. As citizens, you now have all the rights and freedoms that our Constitution guarantees. You have earned these rights. And I encourage you, I urge you, to take full advantage of them. Use your voice to make a difference in your community. Vote, volunteer, participate, become engaged in issues that are important to you and to your family. Work to ensure that American society reflects who you are and what you think because this country stands to benefit. We are so enriched by your presence, your involvement, your ideas, and your perspective. This is an important milestone for you. It's the end of one journey, yes. But it's also the beginning of another, your journey as Americans.
The United States has always benefited from the contribution of immigrants and naturalized citizens. And so it is your opportunity to add to that rich heritage and tradition. Every day when I go home, my youngest daughter says to me, "Momma, how was your day?" And today, I will tell her today was a very special day. Today I got to look freedom in the face, and it looks mighty fine. I congratulate you all again.
And may I now ask USIS Director Ale Mayorkas to join me as we have the privilege of recognizing two very accomplished individuals that have contributed greatly to the United States but were not born in this country. They are Americans by Choice.
The first has dedicated her life to public service and advancing the interest of the United States. Her name is Maria Otero. She currently serves as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights here in the Department of State. Born in La Paz, Bolivia, as you heard Ms. Otero currently is the highest-ranking Hispanic official in the Department of State and the first Latina under secretary in its history, formerly president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in the field of economic development working in 25 countries around the globe.
Ms. Otero is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on inclusive economic growth, women's issues, and international development. President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Board of the United States Institute of Peace in 2000, a position she held for eight years, including one term as vice chair of the board. Her achievements and awards are too numerous to mention here, but today I'm happy to add one more distinction to her list. I'm honored to recognize Under Secretary Otero as an outstanding American by Choice. Her life of dedicated public service serves as an example and an inspiration to all Americans. Please join me. (Applause.)
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you. Thank you so much. Indeed what an honor. And good afternoon. What a pleasure to be here with all of you on this special occasion, on World Refugee Day. Let me give you all my heartfelt congratulations on this day, all of you sitting on the front row and your families for crossing this very important milestone in your day. It is really an honor to be here in this celebration and to also recognize that certainly where I come from, when we have celebrations, one of the first things we do is dance. And I know that we can't do that here, but Alejandro will tell me that – (laughter) – we will all be dancing before this day is over.
I want to thank Deputy Secretary Burns, Assistant Secretary Anne Richard, Deputy Secretary Jane Lute, Denis McDonough, and of course the Bureau for Population, Refugee, and Migration that works here in the Department of State, and just all the wonderful work they did to make this important ceremony possible. And I want to thank especially the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, led by Alejandro Mayorkas, and all the work that they are doing in order to make sure that men and women can fulfill their dream of becoming citizens. And finally, let me also acknowledge Khaled Hosseini, who is a fellow American by Choice, and he's also the United Nations High Commissioner Refugee Goodwill Envoy. It is a privilege to be here with you.
Every minute, eight people are forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution. Not one of those eight people spend one minute wanting to be a refugee. It is not by choice that they have to do that. But in 2011, record numbers of people were newly displaced as refugees. They fled their homes. They fled their countries. They were forced to displacement. The number reached 42 million.
Just last week, I was in Thailand, where I visited refugee camps of Burmese who had suffered persecution and insecurity and who had been in those camps for some – for over – for decades. I've visited refugee camps in Iraq, in Kenya, in Pakistan, and quite a number of other countries, including here in the United States, where we want to ensure the refugees that arrive into this country are given the resources and the support that they need to start a new life.
Today, as we know, we are welcoming all of you as new American citizens, including a Marine. Thank you for your service. Also a set of three siblings – and I was picking you out. Yeah. (Laughter.) A husband and wife who are here also. And all of you who have been here, including a permanent resident who was here for 33 years before becoming a citizen.
Now, some of you would call what you have done is to become naturalized. Now, as a naturalized citizen myself, I have to say I'm not sure about this language of being naturalized. I wasn't an alien before – (laughter) – and then became naturalized. So I just want to take this opportunity, if you permit me, to be able to say to my colleagues here maybe we need to change this language a little bit and see if we don't have to ever talk about foreigners as being aliens.
But in seriousness, in all seriousness, this is such a humbling event for me, and it's so humbling to receive this award. I was 12 when I came to this country from Bolivia, but I didn't become a United States citizen until I was 29, and that was by choice. It was a conscious choice, and one that made me feel very proud. Like all of you, I choose every day to live by the values of this country, values like compassion, like integrity, like inclusion, like equality.
It's been a tremendous honor to be able to serve this country as the highest-ranking Latina in the history of the State Department, and to witness first-hand how the United States is helping to build a world which its members of society around the world, no matter where they are, are treated according to the values that we so respect. It's our principles, our heritage, that don't allow us to ignore our responsibility as a humanitarian leader. We have an obligation as the United States. Our history, our national identity, is what asks us to be able to continue welcoming new Americans into this society, especially those that are fleeing adversity as you have been. In reality, it's the United States that has always been a melting pot of languages, of customs, of traditions, of dancing as I said. This is a country full of colors, of religions, of all different ways of expressing our own identities. And we make this country stronger because we bring those with us and because they are part of our history and part of our journey.
Today, we are celebrating your journey. It has undoubtedly been a very long road to get to this new citizenship day, and we commend you. Your communities in this new country await for your contributions, for your talents, which you will bring to enrich it. And you will enrich also your children and those that follow you.
So congratulations. I proudly share with you this award that is being given to me as an American by Choice. And may we all live and live up to the dignity and to the responsibility of our chosen citizenship. Thank you. (Applause.)
DEPUTY SECRETARY LUTE: Thank you, Maria. Today, I also have the honor of recognizing another naturalized American who's made his mark through writing and philanthropy. No, my own family has not been in this country 100 years. But if somebody called for an American and I were to step out, you would think I was straight out of central casting. And in my blood, it runs red, white, and blue. But for a good portion of my life, I sweat UN blue. And our next honoree, as a Goodwill Ambassador, a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has worked to bring the plight of the world's refugees into public view.
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Khaled Hosseini and his family were granted asylum in the United States in 1980. He was 15 at the time. And for those of you who are familiar with Ellis Island and its legacy, you'll know that in 1892, the first person crossing the threshold of that island coming to this country was an Irish immigrant, Annie Moore, who was also 15. Can you imagine?
Khaled earned a medical degree in 1993 and was a practicing internist from 1996 to 2004. While in medical practice, he began to write his first novel, The Kite Runner, an extraordinary book, which was published in 2003 and has since become an international bestseller, published in 70 countries. His subsequent novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, has also been published in over 60 countries. He is the founder of the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which works to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. And the foundation supports projects that provide shelter to refugee families, along with economic and educational opportunities, healthcare for women and children. In addition, the foundation awards scholarships to women pursuing higher education in Afghanistan.
It is my pleasure to recognize Mr. Hosseini today as an outstanding American by Choice. Through his work with UNHCR, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, and his literary works, he serves as a voice for some of the world's most vulnerable and an outstanding example of American generosity, compassion, and concern. Ladies and gentlemen, Khaled Hosseini. (Applause.)
MR. HOSSEINI: Thank you so much. I wish my dad were alive. He brought me to this country. This would have meant a lot to him, I know. Well, thank you for allowing me the privilege of witnessing this naturalization ceremony. Congratulations to all of you for being Americans now. And let me say how deeply honored I really am to receive this outstanding American by Choice Award. It means a great deal to me and I know that it means a lot to my family.
The truth is that if I'm being called an outstanding American today, it's because the United States made the choice to grant asylum to myself and my family back in 1980. Our homeland of Afghanistan had been invaded by the Soviet Union and war had erupted. And weekly, I remember hearing news from Kabul of people that we knew back home: friends, relatives, people I'd been raised with, aunts, uncles, who were being imprisoned, tortured, killed, or would simply disappear. We heard harrowing tales of people fleeing and trekking across deserts and over mountain ranges in the dark of night. And I think a lot about how fortunate I've been. And every day, I give thanks for this miraculous act of generosity and for my home and this great nation. And I imagine, as I have on many occasions, what my life, how it might have turned out, had the U.S. not granted asylum to my family and me.
In 1980, I was 15 years old. If I'd returned to Afghanistan, I'm certain that my options would have been few and they would have been dire. It's entirely likely that I would have been drafted and sent to fight. I might have been injured, paralyzed, or killed. My family may have fled to Pakistan. They may have had to live in a refugee camp. Our prospects for leaving a refugee camp and having a home of our own again would have been dim. And some of the people that I love might have died long before we had a chance to resettle. So I've been very fortunate indeed.
Here in America, I've had the opportunity to attend a well-run public high school, to earn an undergraduate degree, and then a medical degree and practice medicine. I worked as a physician for almost nine years, and then I pursued my life-long childhood dream of writing fiction. I'm married and have two children whose lives are safe and rich with opportunity.
And through great fortune I became a successful writer, an achievement that has enabled me to give back through the foundation that my wife and I established in 2007. Like the vast majority of – that were naturalized citizens – I have prioritized being a productive member of my new community and to giving back in thanks what I've been given.
And this, I think perhaps one of the – speaks to one of the great misconceptions about refugees and about asylum seekers, that they're really a burden, that they are a monolithic community of weak, dependent, helpless people who have little to offer. I think that's both inaccurate and unhelpful. World Refugee Day, for me, is a time to remember that refugees and asylum seekers are resilient and proud people, that they're tremendous survivors who maintain hope and courage in the face of truly daunting personal circumstances. They bring expertise and talent and passion to the countries that welcome them. Many are industrious people who contribute to the new communities and to the local culture and to the local economy. They become productive members of the new society as entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, doctors, and artists.
As Americans and Americans by Choice, we have a lot to be proud of. And though we can't absorb all 42.5 million refugees worldwide, it's indisputable that the United States welcomes and embraces newcomers in a way that most countries do not. We are unique here in this country in that we not only offer a path to citizenship for people of any race, coming from any nation, but once an individual has been granted citizenship, he is an American for life. The numbers of citizens that we naturalize each year makes the U.S. unique among nations and gives it the credibility to call upon other nations to do more.
Today, the scope of the world's refugee crisis is enormous. Over 42 million people have been displaced by violence, persecution, and war. Global, social, and economic trends, including the interplay between population growth, urbanization, natural disaster, climate change, rising food prices, ethnic conflict, and religious conflict, are just some of the factors that are influencing this proliferation in displaced people. These people are in desperate need of the world's attention and of its generosity, the sort that I have so thoroughly benefited from.
We have done a lot in this country to assist those who have fled from upheaval, violence, and persecution, and we need to do more. It's important that we keep our borders open to those who are in grave danger. And we need to call upon our friends and allies to do the same. The displacement crisis is an issue that calls for an international response, not unilateral action or the expectation that a few nations, with problems of their own, will shoulder the burden alone. I hope communities in this great country and others continue to welcome the enrichment, the potential, the enthusiasm, that refugees and asylum seekers bring to their neighborhoods.
Let me close by giving thanks once more for this tremendous and special recognition and by congratulating all of you today for – on this very special day, because today you're all Americans by Choice. Thank you. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICHARD: Thank you. Thank you very much. I would now like to introduce Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough who has shown great dedication to the refugee admissions program. His work on Capitol Hill and now at the White House has covered a wide range of pressing foreign policy matters important for us today. He has taken an interest in helping Iraqi refugees reach America. He has helped ensure that for years to come, the United States will provide opportunities for men, women, and children to find refuge from persecution and rebuild their lives. For this, my colleagues and I are deeply grateful. Dennis will now make some remarks on behalf of the White House and then lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Immediately following this, Kim Zanotti, the Washington, DC Field Office Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, will come to the stage for the presentation of naturalization certificates. And it is great to have you here, too, Kim. Dennis, I invite you to please come up to the microphone.
MR. MCDONOUGH: Thanks, Anne, very much for that nice introduction. And let me thank Bill and Jane, Ali, Maria, it's good to see you guys here and not in the situation room. (Laughter.) I want to repeat what Anne had to say about Kim. I think she has arguably the best job in the world, getting to swear in – thousands of new Americans a year. So thank you for what you do.
On behalf of the President, let me just congratulate all of you on becoming the newest Americans today. I'm honored to share this proud moment with you, I'm also deeply honored to share it with Maria and Khaled, for the symbol and the example that you set for all of us. As the President said yesterday, in commemoration of World Refugee Day, we know full well how much we benefit as a country from the many refugees who have sought security and freedom in the United States. Our future is brighter because of your talent, intellect, and commitment to this country. When you were asked what it meant to you to become American citizens, you spoke of your gratitude for newfound safety and freedom. And your commitment to serve your new country, your courage and your perseverance as you rebuild your lives after nearly unimaginable hardships, is a great inspiration to all of us.
As a grandson of immigrants, I'm proud to say that the United States – and grateful to say that the United States – takes in more refugees than any other country in the world. This both speaks to the generosity of the American people and reflects our values, our history, and of course our interests. That's why the President has directed us over the course of the last couple years to lead a government-wide effort to undertake reforms to make to our refugee admissions program. We have made strides in updating our processes, as Anne's just said, so that these processes both address the security challenges of today and maintain our commitment to providing refuge for those who have earned it and who need it.
The progress that we have made owes a great deal to the dedication of so many of you in this room. I want to point out in particular Scott and Liz, the President's principal advisors on this over the last several years. And of course I want to underscore the leadership and express appreciation for the Departments of Homeland Security and State in this critical effort, as well as our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has done so much to resettle newly arrived refugees in the United States.
So even as we recognize our many achievements in improving refugee resettlement, the continued persecution of so many people around the world, as we've heard Bill and Jane refer to, underscores that this urgent reminder that we have to do much more. This will remain a high priority of the President and all of us in the White House for the months and years to come.
So now, my fellow citizens, it is my distinct privilege to invite you to stand and to recite in unison with me the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. So please rise, everybody, and we'll say the Pledge in unison.
(The Pledge of Allegiance is recited.)
So please take a seat. Thank you all again for all that you have done to get here on this amazing day. And on behalf of the President, thank you for all you have done. (Applause.)
MS. ZANOTTI: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Kimberly Zanotti, the USCIS Field Office Director of the Washington Field Office. And now is going to be the time where you're going to be getting your certificates of naturalization.
I want to thank everyone up on the stage here. And I'm going to actually ask Jane Holl Lute to stand up here right next to me so that she can be the first person that shakes your hands. And I'd like to invite everybody to form a receiving line. (Applause.) I think it would look great, right?
So when you hear your name called, I'm going to ask you to come up on this stage here and get your certificate and shake everyone else's hands. And congratulations again to each and every one of you.
(The certificates are presented.)
Congratulations again to each and every one of our candidates. (Applause.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICHARD: Have a seat for one last word. Thank you all. As we wrap up today's ceremony, I want to acknowledge just the presence of two additional people. Eskinder Negash is here from the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services, and is himself a refugee who's become an American citizen. (Applause.)
And my predecessor, Colin Powell's Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Gene Dewey, is here, lending a nice bipartisan support to this event today, which is always so nice to have here at the State Department. Thank you, Gene. (Applause.)
And then I'd like to offer once closing thought. The 19 of you came here as the result of a tragedy. Each of you received protection here, and each of you has transformed your life from tragedy to triumph. You join 1.4 million other refugees who, since 1980, have become American citizens. The opportunity continues to be yours as you weave your stories into the fabric of our nation and as your history becomes part of American history.
View the source of these remarks, as well as much more from the Deputy Secretary of State, by visiting the following sites:
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The Bureau of African Affairs -
World Refugee Day and Naturalization Ceremony
Remarks from Reuben Brigety, Bureau of African Affairs
June 20, 2012
Thank you for that kind introduction and for inviting me to speak to you today. It is so good to be back home, here in Jacksonville. As we gather here today to celebrate World Refugee Day, it should bring joy to all of us to welcome these new citizens at today's Naturalization Ceremony, who, from this day forward, can call the United States of America and Jacksonville, Florida their home too.
We know that refugees – almost by definition - have an extraordinary drive for life. They have survived unspeakable hardships in their quests for safety from violence and persecution. And when they are given the chance to restart their lives in their newly adopted countries, they are determined to become productive members of society.
I have witnessed this determination first hand, both personally and professionally. My wife, Dr. Leelie Selassie, and her family came to the United States as refugees from Ethiopia in 1978, fleeing the violence and repression of the communist Derg regime that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. They arrived in Rochester, New York with nothing but the clothes on their back and their life's possessions packed in two suitcases. But, as a family, they were determined to make it. Her parents worked hard, her father as a civil engineer with the Chicago Transportation Authority, and her mother as a homemaker keeping the family together. Leelie and her brother Bereket studied hard, earning scholarships to the University of Illinois. Bereket later earned both his law degree and his MBA from Harvard University and now works in real estate development in Washington, DC. My wife Leelie earned a scholarship to the Medical University of South Carolina is now a critical care physician working in the intensive care unit of a Washington-area hospital, daily saving the lives of critically ill patients. Indeed, it is because of her medical duties that she is unable to join us today, but she asked that I extend her best wishes to everyone here.
In addition to my personal experience with refugees in my family, I have also met refugees living in temporary camps all over Africa, and had the honor of hearing about their hardships as well as their hopes for the future. As mentioned, I am now working in the Bureau of African Affairs, but before this, I worked in the part of the State Department that oversees refugee affairs. Many of you are probably following the crisis in the Horn of Africa where drought is currently affecting 13 million people. In July 2011, I visited the Dolo Ado refugee camps in Ethiopia and witnessed first-hand extensive malnutrition. I saw women who had walked for two to four weeks without food or water, with half-a-dozen children in tow, to reach refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. Many had to decide which of their children they would leave behind to die because they could not bring all of them on the long journey. In the Dadaab refugee camp in Eastern Kenya, I saw a 7-year-old girl lying in a wheelbarrow. I learned that she had been stricken with polio two years earlier, and her mother had carried her on her back for two weeks from Somalia to reach safety in Kenya. She received the luxury of the wheelbarrow only when they reached the refugee camp.
As we wandered through the refugee camp in Dolo Ado, talking with people who had been there for several days or who had just crossed the border, we heard versions of the same story over and over again. One man I met had come all the way from Mogadishu, traveling for nine days with his wife and six children with very little to eat along the way.
I have seen similar hardships in Central Africa as well. In 2011, I traveled to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 1997, the eastern DRC has seen armed conflict among numerous armed groups. During my trip, I visited the remote village of Kitchanga where there was a central well in the village for women to collect drinking water. I asked them if they felt safe. They laughed at me.
They recounted the rapes they had suffered when collecting firewood in the countryside. Many of the women had been raped a half-dozen times or more. Before visiting Kitchanga, I had read that there are estimates of 2 million deaths in the DRC between 1998 and 2003. More than 400,000 Congolese refugees are now spread across nine countries. These women I met in Kitchanga were some of the faces behind these terrible numbers. I would guess that most of you in this room who were refugees have heartbreaking stories too.
At various times in our lives, all of us need help from one another. Yet, because of the horrific circumstances in which they find themselves, refugees need more help than most. How we respond to our sisters and brothers in need reveals our deepest values as individuals, community members, and as a nation.
As the English poet, John Dunn, wrote in 1624,
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
In this poem, Dunn reflects that "Each man's death diminishes me". These thoughts remind us all that generosity of spirit is not uniquely an American trait, nor a trait unique to modern times. The concepts of charity, generosity, and compassion have deep religious roots and are natural human instincts that can be traced back thousands of years. These basic tenants are found in the Jewish concept of zedakah, or "charity", in the "Ten Perfections" of Buddhism, in the notion of "dana," or philanthropy in Hinduism, the core concept of Christianity's "love thy neighbour" and the Islamist obligation of "zekat" in the Holy Koran.
These common human values—that every individual life has worth—have led the U.S. to respond generously to people fleeing violence in Africa and around the world. We have a "humanitarian imperative" to act - and we have.
So what are we as a nation doing to confront such horrific situations? To start, the U.S. is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to Africa, with the U.S. State Department providing over $500 million in 2011. Certainly, the United States cannot meet all of the world's humanitarian needs on our own, yet we play a leading role.
In the setting of this lovely library in downtown Jacksonville, it may be easy to lose sight of the heartbreak that is too often part of the refugee story. Conflicts such as those in Somalia and the DRC affect innocent people who are caught in the violence. Many of these conflict victims who become refugees have been resettled to third countries like the United States, and to communities like Jacksonville.
In fact, the United States resettles the largest number of refugees of any country in the world - more than all other countries combined. This year, the U.S. will welcome some 55,000 refugees from more than 60 countries. Since 1975, the U.S. has welcomed more than 3 million people – as part of our long-standing commitment to protecting the most vulnerable.
Throughout the world, the U.S. has been a leader in refugee resettlement, and in no place more so than the African continent. In 2011, we admitted 7,685 African refugees through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and we will be increasing this number in the future. Currently, our largest refugee groups from Africa include Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Congolese. Looking to the future, we know that there will be an increasing number of Congolese resettled from the Great Lakes region of Africa, Somalis from Eastern Africa, and Eritreans from Eastern Sudan.
Did you know that of the 2,300 refugees who have settled in Florida in the past decade, many have come from African countries such as Liberia, Sudan, and Somalia? And another first for Jacksonville – it was the first home in the United States for Cuban, Burmese, Iraqi, and Bosnian refugees. Yes, Jacksonville has a history of welcoming our nation's newest citizens, a tradition that we are continuing in this room today.
The overarching U.S. Government's humanitarian policy stems from our values and national interests. And the men and women before us today—ready to begin their new lives as U.S. citizens—are testimony to the strength and endurance of the individual.
As I conclude my remarks, I know that we have two important reasons for being here today. We are honoring International World Refugee Day - the global event that recognizes the bravery and resilience of refugees. With this tribute, the international community acknowledges the courage and determination of refugees worldwide, who face personal trials and danger in order to find stability for themselves and their families.
And before us, we are here to welcome these men and women as new citizens. Although, your refugee experience has disrupted all that is near and dear to your heart, we hope that you will find the United States a good place to build your new home. No society is perfect, and certainly the United States can be frustrating and, at times, confusing to navigate. Beyond the setbacks though, we sincerely hope that you will also find a new world of choices on ways to pursue your dreams. Choices for your wife or husband. Choices for your children – all possible to imagine in the cherished experience of peace and freedom.
World Refugee Day is a time to reflect upon our common humanity. To the service providers - like those here today - who dedicate time to help others in need, we thank you. And to those who were caught in the violence of social strife, we pay our respects to your ability to rise up, reinvent yourself, and embrace life once again. Please be assured that on behalf of the U.S. Government, we sincerely welcome you to the United States. Our nation is stronger and better and because of you and other newcomers like you. So, in addition to saying "welcome," let me also say "thank you" for becoming part of this great country, which is now your country, too.
View the source of these remarks, as well as much more from the Bureau of African Affairs, by visiting the following sites:
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The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration -
Three Million: Changing Lives One Refugee at a Time
September 16, 2010
The number of refugees resettled in the United States topped three million on February 15. The resettlement program continues to offer life-changing and life-saving support for refugees who have been in camps or urban locations for many years. Equally important, it serves many more refugees by preserving and expanding the humanitarian space in countries of first asylum. We have seen this vividly in the past during the Kosovo crisis, and more recently in Libya.
The 1980s saw primarily refugees resettling in the U.S. from Vietnam, Laos, and the Soviet Union. The 1990s brought large numbers of Bosnians as war engulfed the former Yugoslavia. In the 21st century, we welcomed refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, among others, reflecting a more diverse and expansive program. Last year we processed refugees from 69 different countries in 92 locations.
A few statistical highlights since 1975:
- Over 1.4 million refugees from South East Asian countries
- Over 605,000 from countries of the Former Soviet Union
- Over 262,000 Africans
- Over 289,000 from the countries of Near East and South Asia
- The five largest nationalities resettled are Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Iraqi, Cuban, and Somali
- The five states that have resettled the most refugees, in descending order, are California, New York, Texas, Washington, and Florida
I recently traveled to Tennessee, where I saw the strengths of the refugee admissions program in action. While the Departments of State and Health and Human Services offer initial support to refugees in the U.S., the program is designed to encourage refugees to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. But it's the welcoming help of local communities that is the linchpin of the program's success. Volunteers and other community members help refugees adjust to the world around them, get settled, and integrate themselves.
We understand that the current economic situation is challenging the ability of federal, state, and non-profit agencies to broadly assist refugees in need. In response, in 2010, the Deptartment of State doubled the per-refugee stipend, and raised it again this year. The refugee admissions program is a public-private partnership. As such, non-profit agencies involved have also increased efforts to raise private resources to support refugees in need. And some businesses are stepping in to assist as well.
In Tennessee, I heard firsthand the commitment of businesses to making refugee resettlement successful. Tyson Foods support to refugees is remarkable: $100,000 per year for on-site ESL, $3,500 per year for college costs, 100% reimbursement for naturalization applications, full-time interpreters on site, financial assistance, on-site banking, and tax preparation services, all of which demonstrate why the company had only a 12.5% turnover last year and has proven to be such a strong example of leadership in integrating refugees, not just into their new community, but into the wider U.S. economy.
The Nashville mayor, police chief, and director of the mayor's office of neighborhoods were enthusiastic about the diversity in Nashville, the civic contributions of refugees, and the collegial working relationships of service providers.
I know that many other communities around the country can point to similar experiences. In the end, all Americans benefit from our nation's open doors – the refugees, those whose lives they touch, and the communities strengthened by their contributions.
We expect the future of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to remain strong and responsive. We will continue to partner with UNHCR to provide resettlement opportunities here in the United States – and to encourage other countries to open their doors generously as well.
As we celebrate this major milestone, we would like to thank all of you for your continued commitment to the program.
David M. Robinson
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
Remarks at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ministerial on the 60th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention
Remarks from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
December 7, 2011
Thank you very much. And it's an for me to join all of you here for the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Statelessness Convention. I'm honored to be here with the minister for immigration from Kenya and to stand with all of the other ministers and senior government officials to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the two conventions and to deliver our pledges to provide protection and assistance for refugees and stateless persons.
I would like to congratulate UNHCR on its own anniversary last year. Mr. High Commissioner, celebrating more than 60 years of service demonstrates clearly the importance of your mission. I want to thank you, the staff, and the humanitarian partners that help so many millions of refugees and persons of concern around the world. And we must acknowledge, as we draw to the end of this year, that the humanitarian work done by UNHCR can be dangerous, as we saw this past October with the tragic shooting deaths of three local staff members in Kandahar. We share your sorrow, and we honor their sacrifices.
My country is a nation of immigrants, and we are proud to have welcomed so many refugees to our shores. This year alone, we welcomed more than 56,000 refugees from more than 60 countries. And we are equally proud to be UNHCR's largest financial donor. We support this work, we understand its importance, and we honor those who do it.
The conventions we celebrate today laid a marker for human compassion on a global scale. They enshrined and guaranteed the rights of refugees and stateless persons and created a system for protecting them. That system endures today, and its values can be measured in the generations of people who have found new lives and futures, thanks to resettlement, local integration, and voluntary repatriation.
But we are here at a time when there are so many refugee crises afflicting the globe, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. The scale of the challenge has expanded in ways that no one foresaw. Tens of millions of desperate people have fled conflicts and crises in a steady flow. Their numbers and populations have grown increasingly mobile that they now are viewed as a fluid but permanent presence. Millions continue to be uprooted by wars or victims of persecution because of race, tribe, religion, political opinion, or sexual identity. Many are internally displaced persons, disempowered within their own countries.
And so we have to ask ourselves what are the most effective forward-looking policies for us to employ in this century. That means, in some cases, training immigration judges or border guards on how to treat asylum seekers with efficiency and compassion; making counseling services available to refugees who are also victims of gender-based violence; providing civic education to young people, so they might learn democratic practices; help to better girls, women, and children, who are especially vulnerable to violence, sexual exploitation, and other forms of abuse during crisis and upheaval.
The needs of refugees don't respect our bureaucratic divisions, so we have to coordinate across governments. Justice and health, foreign affairs and national security, immigration – each brings unique perspectives and capabilities, but we have to do a better job of breaking down barriers, both within our governments and between our governments and with multilateral organizations.
If we do what is necessary today, we can alleviate a lot of the suffering. The benefits of doing so are clear and extend beyond resolving the crisis of the moment. We won't only help people return home in safety and with dignity, but begin new lives in resettlement countries. We also have to do more to help host countries, such as Kenya, that have shown great compassion and concern, often at the expense of their own security and needs.
Protecting and assisting refugees is among my government's highest humanitarian priorities, and the pledges we are making today will be an important step in helping the 12 million people who wake up every morning stateless, belonging nowhere at all, and the more than 40 million who are displaced. Later today, Acting Assistant Secretary Robinson from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration will speak in some detail about the 28 pledges that the United States is delivering. I want only briefly to mention one that is a particular priority for us and for me personally. It concerns one of the major causes of statelessness, which is discrimination against women.
At least 30 countries around the world prevent women from acquiring, retaining, or transmitting citizenship to their children or their foreign spouses. And in some cases, nationality laws strip women of their citizenship if they marry someone from another country. Because of these discriminatory laws, women often can't register their marriages, the births of their children, or deaths in their families. So these laws perpetuate generations of stateless people, who are often unable to work legally or travel freely. They cannot vote, open a bank account, or own property, and therefore they often lack access to healthcare and other public services. And the cycle continues, because, without birth registration or citizenship documents, stateless children often cannot attend school.
In this compromised state—or no state, better put—women and children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and arbitrary arrests and detention. That hurts not only the women and their immediate families, but the larger communities. When you have a population of people who are denied the opportunity to participate, they cannot contribute.
The United States has launched an initiative to build global awareness about these issues and support efforts to end or amend such discriminatory laws. We want to work to persuade governments—not only officials but members of parliament—to change nationality laws that carry this discrimination to ensure universal birth registration and establish procedures and systems to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship for stateless people. I encourage other member-states to join this effort, and I want to thank the High Commissioner, who has signaled his support. I encourage UNHCR to work with UN Women, UNICEF, UNDP, and other UN partners to achieve equal nationality rights for women.
There is so much more governments can do, and even ideas we haven't thought of, to help these and other vulnerable groups. So let's challenge ourselves in the 60th anniversary time to ask: What new strategies can we adopt to better serve the refugees who come to our borders or empower the stateless people within them? How can we expand and broaden the scope of our efforts?
With us here today is Fatima Elmei, whose life during the past 20 years is clear evidence of the wisdom of investing in women. When civil war broke out in her native Somalia, she applied for asylum and was granted it in the United States. She settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her daughter and worked as a volunteer, helping other refugee mothers and daughters adapt to life in the U.S. A few years later, she joined the Lutheran Social Service Agency, where for the past 15 years she has helped new refugees find employment and build their own futures.
Now, her story is just one of millions that I could share and that you could share, stories of refugees who have found new homes, forged better lives, given back to communities they've joined. We can all write more stories like these, and we can do so by making pledges that really will bring about better opportunities to the Somali family stuck in a refugee camp in Kenya, or the Afghan girl, who wonders when her family will be able to return home after three decades of war, and so many others.
So we welcome your commitments, and we pledge to turn our pledges into action, and we pledge to work with each and every one of you and with UNHCR to turn all of our pledges into action. We look forward to many more years of partnership on behalf of refugees around the world. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
To view the source of these remarks, as well as more remarks and information from Secretary Clinton,
please visit the following sites:
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
World Refugee Day
Press Statement from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
June 20, 2011
On this World Refugee Day, we pause to reflect on how far we have come over the last 60 years since the world's first convention on refugees, and recommit ourselves to saving more refugees and survivors of conflict and persecution. Around the world, there are still over 15 million refugees who have been uprooted from their homes and forced to live in difficult and in many cases unacceptable conditions. As events in Syria, Libya, and Cote d'Ivoire evolve, we are reminded that refugee protection presents new and ongoing challenges that we must continually strive to meet.
The United States has a history of upholding human rights and humanitarian principles. For decades we have led the world in overseas support for humanitarian protection and assistance, and we have provided asylum and refugee resettlement for millions. In doing so, we show through example our dedication to basic human decency, to our responsibilities under international law, and - along with the rest of the international community - to ensuring refuge when innocent lives hang in the balance. We do this because our country's values must be a critical component of our foreign policy.
On this World Refugee Day, the United States and the Obama Administration reaffirms these core values as we work to provide a safe haven to the world's most vulnerable citizens – refugees.
To view the source of this press statement, as well as more information and remarks from Secretary Clinton, please visit the following sites:
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
Remarks at the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Remarks from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State,
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis,
Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.,
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
February 1, 2011
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we're going to try to get started because we have a quorum and we have others who will join us. And we have some new faces around the table for the first time, which is particularly gratifying. Bob, thank you for being here.
This is, as you probblay saw on your schedules, the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons. This is mandated by the Congress because it is an issue of such great and grave importance that Congress wanted as many members of the Cabinet and the heads of agencies to come together to discuss it once a year. So I thank you for taking time out of what are amazingly busy schedules between national security issues and weather security issues to gather here. And I'm joined today by Under Secretary Maria Otero and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca. They are helping to lead our efforts here at the State Department and within the interagency process.
Very fittingly, we meet today on National Freedom Day to discuss the latest steps in a journey that our country has been taking for more than 150 years. On this day in 1865, President Lincoln signed the joint congressional resolution that became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery. Yet modern slavery, often hidden and unrecognized, persists today on every continent and, most tragically, right here in the United States, despite being prohibited by both domestic legislation and international law.
Anywhere from 12 to 27 million people are currently held in forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution. That's equivalent to all the people who live in London at the low end and the combined populations of New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. at the high end. The victims range from the men and women enslaved in fields, factories, and brothels to the girls and boys whose childhoods have been shattered and stolen, to the parents whose children have vanished. Whether they are far from home or in their own villages, they need and deserve our help and the help of the world.
Now, since we last met together last year, everyone around this table and our entire government has really achieved a great deal. We continue to strengthen our efforts. An obvious sign of our growth here today is that we are joined, for the first time, by the FBI, by the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior. Today, I hope we can hear how we will take this work to the next level, how we can ensure that trafficking is an issue we continue to address within our agencies and throughout our government, and I hope we'll take on another important task – ending the practice of punishing the victims of human trafficking. For all the millions who are held in servitude, fewer than 50,000 have been officially identified as victims. Too many others are either ignored, or even worse, treated as criminals. So we need to do more to identify the true victims of human trafficking and help restore them to participation in our society.
I just want to kick off by describing several of our State Department initiatives. First and foremost, we will publish another edition of our annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Some countries have been downgraded and may be downgraded again automatically from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3, because they have not taken steps adequately to address trafficking. Now, this is an uncomfortable position for them to be in and for us. And as I travel around talking to heads of state and governments and ministers, they watch this very closely, and they often raise questions about their position on this list.
Now, last year, for the first time ever under my direction, we included the United States in this report. As President Obama has made clear, we want to be the best champion for our own ideals, and we want to live up to those ideals ourselves. And we know we can do more to diminish involuntary servitude and slavery in our own country.
Now, beyond this report, our Bureau of Diplomatic Security will establish an anti-trafficking unit to support its field offices which already participate in the 39 Department of Justice-funded anti-trafficking task forces nationwide. This new unit will centralize case referrals and command at headquarters and offer training to all agents, particularly on how to work with victims. We will also begin an annual briefing for visiting diplomats and their domestic workers as part of an ongoing effort we launched last year—thanks to Hilda and others for their help on this—to protect domestic workers brought here by diplomats and raise awareness within the diplomatic community. Whether they're diplomats or national emissaries of whatever kind, we all must be accountable for the treatment of the people that we employ. We will also work with federal contractors to identify best practices for preventing trafficking, help them protect victims, and hold them accountable if they do not follow the federal government's anti-trafficking policies.
And finally, we are working with many partners to develop a voluntary international code of conduct for private security service providers. Companies that sign the code commit to not engage in human trafficking and report allegations to competent authorities. To date, nearly 60 private security companies have signed the code, including many that contract with the U.S. Government.
Now, before we hear from a number of you about what your agencies are doing, I have a request. I would like to ask this group to task the Assistant Secretary Level Senior Policy Operating Group with developing an overarching victims services strategy. One of our continuing challenges is that we've not yet made the American public fully aware of the protections that are already available to victims who are United States citizens. And we need to maximize our resources by looking at other federal programs to serve all trafficking victims. A victims services strategy would do a great service to victims in our own country and set an example around the world.
So I would hope that the Senior Policy Operating Group would work together to hold a public meeting, to get the word out on the work we're doing to interact with civil society groups, would inventory existing juvenile justice and child welfare programs that affect at-risk youth. That's one of our biggest problems, is that an underage child gets picked up on the streets, there's nowhere for that child to be held, so that young boy or girl is put into jail as opposed to a safe place.
We want to develop standards and training to ensure that children in prostitution are treated as victims, not criminals, and given the help they need, and determine whether having separate outreach and service programs for foreign and domestic victims is truly in their best interest. We have seen several legislative proposals to address these issues, and the Trafficking Act will be up for reauthorization in this Congress. But I think through greater interagency cooperation, we can make improvements and really set the agenda for, hopefully, the next decade, at least.
Now, I'd like to call on some of our colleagues to discuss some of the issues that they are dealing with, and I want to start with our Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who has been a real champion of everything having to do with people in every setting, but in particular this area.
SECRETARY SOLIS: Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton. And I'm happy to join you with the Department of Labor to be a representative on the President's Interagency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons. I'm firmly committed to supporting the mission of the task force, which includes our strong cooperation with my colleagues here today. This commitment builds upon the long history of the Department of Labor to protect and assist vulnerable workers. And I'm proud of the work the Department has done over the past year to help combat trafficking, both domestically and internationally. And I'm pleased that the DOL is a member of the Federal Enforcement Working Group spearheaded by Attorney General Holder. Through this effort, I am confident we will achieve the goals of assisting victims and dismantling trafficking organizations through high impact prosecutions.
This March is the one-year anniversary of the implementation of a new regulation for H2-A programs. Agricultural workers are a group most at risk of trafficking. These new regulations, reinstated, requires that employers provide documentation as a part of their application, strengthen transportation safety requirements, and prohibited foreign recruiters from charging workers certain fees. Employers who have committed violations can be banned from filing future applications of similar visas. This regulation has strengthened protections for non-immigrant agricultural workers as well as domestic agricultural workers.
And I announced that the Department of Labor will begin exercising its authority to certify applications for new visas. This will provide an avenue for immigrant victims desperate to escape an abusive situation and willing to cooperate with law enforcement. My staff is working hard to finalize those protocols now. Recognition and inclusion of anti-trafficking provisions in contracts and grants is also equally critical. That's why, at the Department of Labor, we're including and requiring our anti-trafficking federal acquisition regulation provisions in our contracts and grants. And while it's not currently required, all of the Department's international grants include anti-trafficking language, and we'll further explore how to integrate such language into all of our grants.
Last December, our department released three new reports on child labor and forced labor. For the first time last year, our major report, the findings on the worst forms of child labor identified gaps in government efforts and included specific suggestions for each government that would address those problems. We believe this information will be useful for Congress, the executive branch agencies to consider when developing labor and trade policy.
And I'm also proud that in May of 2010, the Department entered into a revised agreement with the Mexican Embassy and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Mexican workers in the United States are informed about their labor rights through their consular offices. This information can assist vulnerable workers, including persons who may have been trafficked. We are expanding the approach to now include more partnerships with embassies from Central America and the Caribbean. And on December 2nd, I met with several ambassadors from nine Central American and Caribbean countries who wanted to learn about the program. We are following up with those discussions now.
In conclusion, I would just say as a nation and as members of the global community, we reject the proposition that it is acceptable to pursue economic gain through force, fraud, and coercion of human beings. I'm delighted to be a part of this working group and also proud to represent our agency here today. Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Hilda. Let me turn now to the Attorney General. Attorney General Holder, the Department of Justice has done a lot of good work on this. We appreciate it.
ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER: Well, I apologize to everyone for being late. Bob (inaudible) had given me a task that took a little longer than I anticipated. (Laughter.)
But thank you, Secretary Clinton. It's an honor and a privilege to join my colleagues to mark the many breakthroughs that we've made over the past year and the momentum that we have generated for the year ahead in our fight to end human trafficking. Now this past year, and for the third year in a row, the Department of Justice has prosecuted more human trafficking cases than ever before. This modern day slavery is an affront to human dignity. And each and every case that we prosecute should send a powerful signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated in or by the United States.
Our prosecutions have been – have brought long overdue justice to victims from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, the Philippines, Thailand, and Mexico, as well as from our own country. We have liberated adults, children, men and women exploited for sex and labor in virtually every corner of our nation. We have secured long sentences against individual traffickers and we have dismantled large transnational organized criminal enterprises that have exploited victims across the United States, depriving them of their freedom and of their dignity.
But we have more to do, and we have farther to go. On the 10th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act last fall, I committed that the Justice Department would be launching a human trafficking enhanced enforcement initiative to take our counter-trafficking enforcement efforts to the next level by building on the most effective tool in our anti-trafficking arsenal: partnerships. Well, today, I am pleased to announce the launch of this initiative, which will streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking. The Departments of Homeland Security and Department of Labor have collaborated closely with the Justice Department in this historic effort, and I want to thank Secretaries Napolitano and Solis for their expertise and for their shared commitment.
Now, as part of this fight against human trafficking, specialized anti-trafficking coordination teams, known as ACT teams, will be convened in a number of pilot districts nationwide. Under the leadership of the highest-ranking federal law enforcement officials in the district, these teams will bring together federal agents and prosecutors across agency lines to combat human trafficking threats, dismantle human trafficking networks, and bring traffickers to justice. The launch of these ACT teams will enable us to leverage the assets and the expertise of each federal enforcement agency more effectively than ever before. But we will not rest until this unprecedented collaboration translates into the results that matter most, the liberation of victims and the prosecution of traffickers.
Now, we are all inspired by the courage of survivors who have escaped from bondage and energized by the strength of our partnerships. But above all, we are firm in our resolve to do more than ever before to end human trafficking. The efforts announced today and the work being undertaken across this government are an important step forward in winning this fight. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Attorney General, for not only the work you've done but this new initiative.
Let me now turn to Secretary Napolitano. Obviously, the Department of Homeland Security plays an absolutely critical role in these efforts. Janet.
SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Well, thank you. And thank you, Secretary, for hosting this meeting. We are, indeed, proud to play a strong role in combating human trafficking as demonstrated by ICE's arrest last week at the JFK airport of a human trafficker who was one of its top ten most wanted persons. This past year, ICE, working with DOJ, initiated its highest ever number of cases with a nexus to human trafficking. Our success in combating human trafficking continues to be rooted in strong partnerships. This includes not only the partnership represented around this table today, but also state, local, tribal, international, nongovernmental, and private sector partners who see this problem every day on the ground.
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security launched a campaign to coordinate and enhance its anti-human trafficking efforts. It's called the Blue Campaign. Under the Blue Campaign last year we provided new training for state and local law enforcement, offered new materials on how to assist victims, and conducted public awareness campaigns both in the United States and in Latin America.
Indeed, I was in Dallas yesterday to check out security for the Super Bowl, and between Dallas and Arlington, I saw at least two billboards advertising how to gain assistance under the Blue Campaign. So it is really rolling out everywhere.
This year, we're also developing new public awareness materials and a new message to be played in DHS immigration offices and waiting rooms which informs potential victims that help is available. We're expanding the campaign called No Te Enganas, or Don't Be Fooled, in Central America and some United States cities to also raise awareness among potential victims.
We are developing comprehensive anti-human trafficking courses for our own personnel to address what role each and every DHS component agency plays in combating this scourge. And we are working with firefighters and first responders around the country who may come into contact with victims during their daily work.
As was indicated, we are working with a number of other agencies on joint initiatives including the anti-trafficking coordination teams the attorney general just announced and also initiatives with the Department of Labor. This is a fight that all of us around this table are committed to do. So I look forward to continuing on this work with my Cabinet colleagues and on all of our partners in order to combat this terrific problem.
Thank you, Madam Secretary.
To view the source and video footage of these remarks, as well as more remarks and information from Secretary Clinton,
please visit the following sites:
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Press Release, Bureau of Public Affairs -
Conversations With America: Haiti in 2011—The Way Forward
Interview with Thomas C. Adams, Special Coordinator for Haiti,
Sam Worthington, President and CEO of Interaction
by Philip J. Crowley, Assisatnt Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
January 11, 2011
MR. CROWLEY: Hello, and welcome to the Department of State. I am P.J. Crowley, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
I'm joined by Tom Adams, the Special Coordinator for Haiti, Sam Worthington, who is the president and CEO of InterAction, and we're here this
morning to talk about Haiti, one year after the awful, terrible, tragic earthquake and what has happened – what happened on that day and what
has happened since and what needs to be done over the coming years to—as many leaders, including the Secretary General, Secretary Clinton,
President Obama said—to build back Haiti better.
But to start off, Tom, thanks for joining us, and Sam. And why don't the two of you – what did happen a year ago, and what has happened in the year since?
MR. ADAMS: Thanks, P.J. A year ago, the most devastating earthquake that has ever hit a major urban center destroyed Port-au-Prince, killing 230,000
people or more, destroying buildings, infrastructure. And this was in a place that already was very poor, had the lowest statistics in the entire hemisphere.
There was a very large international response, which, in hindsight, is probably one of the best of these kinds of rescue operations that's ever been done,
and the United States did its fair share, but a lot of other organizations and countries also participated.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And, we had, unfortunately, massive destruction, and we hear these big numbers of 220,000 people killed or 300,000 injured, but really
it comes down to families, families that were torn apart and have to get themselves back on their feet and the first place they went was into camps the
international community mounted, which is one of the largest global responses to help individuals at least have a tarp over their head, that went to tents.
And now we're moving to the more difficult phase, which is really helping individuals, their families, and their communities get back on their feet.
The international community responded tremendously, not only governments but the American people. Through our members, the American people gave $1.3 billion.
Those resources – as of approximately the end of October, about half of those resources were spent, and this is just in the day-to-day maintenance of camps,
food, water, shelter. It's an enormous global effort.
MR. CROWLEY: So for the average Haitian citizen today, perhaps in a camp, what is the day-to-day reality for them?
MR. ADAMS: Well, life is still very grim there, and your average Haitian is probably understandably concerned that with all this money that's been pledged,
all the NGOs working there, why hasn't my life gotten better quicker. And the reality there is this is going to be – we have stabilized Haiti after the earthquake,
and as I said, I think it was a very good job, by and large. But moving on, as you try to develop Haiti to turn around its economic problems – that's going to take
a decade or more. Now, that's not to say you're not going to see progress soon. I think in the next two or three years you are. But it's not the kind of thing that
happens overnight, unfortunately.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think it sort of depends on what happened to you during the quake. If you were it's certainly more vibrant than it was seven or eight, nine months
ago. So you're seeing life come back, but it really is family by family. It's the ability of one driver to take care of 70 people, because he has the one job out there.
But hundreds of thousands of Haitians are, in many ways, trying to improve their lives, and we think we need to see this response as a partnership with them. It's slow,
it's difficult, some individuals do better than others, but there's a clear momentum, even if it is a very slow momentum.
MR. CROWLEY: We must work through some areas. Start with the basic aspect of security. What is the situation on the ground today, from your standpoint, in terms
of citizen safety?
MR. WORTHINGTON: If you're living in camps and you're a woman, at night, there's risk. Individuals still monitor and have neighborhood watches to get a sense
of what's going on, lights are slowly be introduced in camps to give some degree of security. At the higher level, there is a sense of a certain degree of political
instability, not a clear sense of who's going to win the election yet, and lots of hopes for the future. And it's because these hopes are so great, and in many ways
justified, that individuals are looking to their government and the international community to help them get out of their current rather difficult circumstances.
MR. CROWLEY: And Tom, Sam just mentioned the political situation. As we sit here, there's been a first round of voting, and there's a review of that voting,
and then a second round of voting has been delayed. What's the – how important is the political situation to be being able to enact the plan that Haiti has put forward?
MR. ADAMS: It's very important that the people in Haiti have confidence in their government, and part of getting that confidence is for them to think that their vote—
to be sure that their votes counted in this election. So when the elections were announced, the results on the evening of the election—November 28th—there
was a lot of charges of fraud. Even before the elections were over, as you know, the opposition was screaming fraud. And there were certain indicators, parallel vote
counts and other things, that indicated that the results might be fraudulent.
MR. CROWLEY: And we always think of the victims of the earthquake – the government itself was victimized by the earthquake. You had a government with limited
capacity and, in many respects, many of the ministries lost their leaders, lost workers with significant experience and capabilities. What's the current status of the
capacity of the Haitian Government to do what needs to be done?
MR. ADAMS: Well, estimates are that 15 percent of the government workforce was killed in the earthquake, which happened about 5 – 5 o'clock at night, and often
the best people who were working what is considered fairly late in Haiti. If you add the people who probably immigrated from the government, a lot of them had visas
and could leave the country, probably as much as 40 percent of the government workforce left, so this left a big hole.
In addition, almost all the government buildings were destroyed. I think 28 out of 29 ministries were – buildings were destroyed. We have helped somewhat by turning
over the old U.S. embassy and the old USAID mission as government offices. We are currently building a temporary parliament building, and we've done a number of
other – taken a number of other steps to help strengthen the government.
But this will be a process. It takes time, as almost everything in Haiti will. There are big challenges building a new government, fixing the educational system,
fixing the health system.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think the reality of the shock to the government is as big as the shock that hit the people of Port-au-Prince. I had the opportunity to meet
with President Preval earlier in March in the presidential palace, and there's only one small wing at the back of the palace that is still standing.
And this translates into real challenges for the international non-profit community, we call the NGO community. We had worked very closely with the ministry of
lanning. That ministry almost entirely collapsed, and most of the individuals with whom we'd worked for the past 20 years were killed. So you end up with a lack of
sense of who's doing what where, a lack of sense of the plans that existed, not because conversations and those discussions hadn't happened as to what should be going
on, but simply because that people were killed. So you really had to pick up the pieces from below zero. And it's been amazing how far we've come, but there clearly is
a lack of capacity that translates into a slower process of reconstruction. That's understandable, but it is also very difficult.
MR. CROWLEY: And what about the current state of public health in Haiti?
MR. WORTHINGTON: If you were in the camps, you've been fortunate because there's been a significant investment in sanitation. The first site I visited—I
was in Haiti last week, and the first site I actually visited was the dump, the one and only dump for the city of Port-au-Prince, is where all the human waste goes.
That dump, and it's a very simple visual, unfortunately, when human wastes are dumped from the camps, all the sanitation, when those trucks come back to the camps,
they're sprayed with chlorine, so they're disinfected. So you are stopping the spread of disease. It's looking at those points of intervention, it's the fact that
there is clean water in most of the camps that has kept health situation in the camps far better than we expected.
We have experienced a cholera epidemic. It spread from the countryside into the camps. We're seeing less death rate in the camps. Cholera clinics were stood up.
They're very much—they're isolation areas so that they don't spread.
But health over time is not about building clinics; it's about the ability to have clean water throughout the country. It's about having access to vaccines. It's having access to medical care. So we can't just look at the camps, we need to look at the whole country of Haiti and ultimately a partnership with the Haitian Government and its ability to care for its people through health services.
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, let me just add to that. In the aftermath of the earthquake, we knew that Haiti would be ripe for water-borne diseases, and there were certain
surveillance and other measures put into place—warehouses were stocked with things that would be needed to fight it. And people thought it would be diphtheria or
some other disease. There were immunizations given out very successfully against diphtheria and other diseases. No one guessed – would have guessed cholera. Cholera hasn't been in Haiti perhaps in a hundred years, and maybe never. So cholera did take us a bit by surprise.
And also, I think the common wisdom was it would start in this dense damaged urban center; in fact, started out in the countryside. That said, the response
was—of the international community was quick. We have—the United States has provided over $40 million worth of supplies. We also have a big CDC
contingent down there, and they're doing other things. The NGO community has also sprung into action, as have the international agencies, the UN and others.
But the truth of the matter is because there are no immunities in Haiti to cholera, it spiked rapidly. Also, their sanitation systems are the worst in the
hemisphere, and that contributes to it. So I think you attack it in two ways. One is prevention, and we're distributing Aquatabs, trying to make sure people
have clean water, follow sanitation procedures. And also prompt treatment. It's a very curable disease – cholera – if you get to a treatment center with a
serious case. And the messaging there has been very good by the government. This whole effort has been led by their ministry of health, which is performing
really above expectations, given how they too were damaged.
And the real key here will be to drive mortality rates down. Right now they are down a little above 2 percent. They started out at 10 percent. They're down—
MR. CROWLEY: Two percent of those who contract—
MR. ADAMS: Who go to hospitals, yeah, who get serious cases. And three out of four people who get cholera are asymptomatic, by the way. So you can have it
and not know it, basically. But we're hoping to get it down even further. And again, this is going to be a large and continuing effort over the next few years.
Now, at another level, as Sam mentioned, they need sanitation systems, permanent ones. And that is part of the reconstruction plan. The Inter-American Development
Bank, about a month ago, let out contracts, $48 million to put in water systems in most of the major towns in the country. And so that – at that higher level it's
being addressed as well, besides the immediate things, giving out clean water.
MR. CROWLEY: I want to get back to that plan in the future, but what about the economy? What was the state of the economy at the time of the earthquake and
what has happened in the year since?
MR. ADAMS: Well, the economy was actually improving before the earthquake. They had had some pretty good economic growth, but it was eaten up by their growth
in population, so their per capita GDP was actually declining. That was one problem. Although their population growth was also slowing too, so I think there were
good trends in both those areas.
Since then, there is economic activity due to the assistance, and I think economists predict that for the next two or three years there will be a bounce from the
cash-for-work projects, all the construction. NGOs are hiring. In fact, businessmen complain that NGOs are driving up costs to hire? people down there. So I think
that will help prod the economy into some life. After that, we're going to have to have sustainable jobs, and we're working on that, too. The United States in
particular is working to set up two industrial zones that will do largely textiles, but also furniture manufacturers and others have shown interest. And these could produce a significant number of sustainable jobs when they open. The first one would open about a year from March, the second one six months later.
There are other things we are doing to improve economic life. Agriculture is very inefficient there, and we can easily double or triple farmer income by showing
them sort of more modern, efficient farming techniques.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And it comes – I mean, you have this investment of resources in the earthquake zone, and on Friday I saw—it was actually Thursday—a
program by Concern Worldwide. They were paying about $1.6 million of Haitian salaries. And they were building temporary shelters—wooden frames, tin roofs—
for about 6,000 families, cranking them out at an incredible pace because they're paid by each house that was built, Haitian contractors laying the concrete, putting
in the bars in place so that if the hurricane hits, the roofs are not torn off. So you have this investment because of the relief effort around the hurricane.
At the same time, most Haitians live in small farms. They live far from cities in little villages. And it's the importance of getting those small holder farmers up to
market. And when we looked and mapped our community and their work throughout Haiti, we found that most of their effort is actually not in Port-au-Prince in terms of
economic activity; it's throughout the country, as a recognition that you don't want to draw everyone into the city simply because that's where the earthquake and where
jobs are now, but you really do need to build on the ability of the small holder farmer to have access to some form of market to increase her productivity and to have
better roads to bring things to market. You see Port-au-Prince today; there's lots of people carrying vegetables and goods on their heads as they walk to market into
the city to sell. That's not the most efficient way to transport goods, and that's where we need to see some investment in the future.
MR. CROWLEY: Both of you have mentioned a plan. Now, I think there was a long-term plan that Haiti had developed before the earthquake. How much change did that
have to undertake after the earthquake, and where does that planning process with the support of the UN, and I think led by the prime minister and former President
Clinton – where does that stand now?
MR. ADAMS: Well, the Government of Haiti put forth a very good plan on how to reconstruct the country. It had a number of elements, political elements, economic
elements. And it's to that plan that donors have pledged their money, including the United States. And the mechanism to coordinate that assistance is, as you mentioned,
through the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the IHRC as it's known, which is co-chaired by President Clinton and Jean-Max Bellerive. Donors belong to that and submit
their projects through it. NGOs are not required to do that but are encouraged to do it, and a number of them do it.
And the benefit of doing that is when they do do it, the permits that come through the IHRC process are government permits as well because the government
ministries are represented on the IHRC. So this has been a very effective mechanism, we think, for getting input from the NGO sector, from Haitian civic
organizations, from the Government of Haiti, as well as from various donors and NGOs.
MR. CROWLEY: And a lot more synergy and coordination both in the public sector and the private sector (inaudible)?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I mean, if you compare this disaster to the tsunami, the level of coordination is simply at a different level among the NGO community, between
the NGO community and governments, other donors, and so forth. And this plan provides a frame and a general direction. It means that you have a general sense of where
you're going. Our challenge is to translate the plan into operational direction, and that's the big hurdle that we're working on. How do you take a general concept of
moving people out of the city, enabling individuals to have livelihoods? You're building, perhaps—in this case, World Vision—1,167 temporary shelters out
in the Corail area. That's part of the plan. And yet it's at that operational level: How do you bring in the schools? Can you bring in livelihoods in that area? The
challenge of the influx of more refugees around the Corail area. That's the translation. And this is where some of the dilemmas come out and result in a movement
forward, but sometimes very slow movement forward.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, on shelter, there's tension between developing temporary shelters, where someone could live there for an extended period of time, and being
able to remove the rubble and begin to build permanent shelters. But I know there are land issues, deed issues. How do you resolve that tension, making lives better now
versus being able to, a year from now or two from now, really start to rebuild communities in a vastly different way?
MR. ADAMS: I spent time walking through a neighborhood in Delmas in a project that was being managed by Catholic Relief Services, and they had an interesting
effort. They had supported the local business woman. She – they provided her with a machine that crushed rubble. There was a group of young men working very hard around
that machine while others were bringing in wheelbarrows of rubble to it. The machine crushed rubble, turned it into sand and fine rubble, which is then bagged and sold,
sold to the individuals who are then building the concrete slabs for the new houses. So all the salaries of the entire effort were paid for by the sales of the crushed
rubble. This project, which is being replicated throughout different places in Port-au-Prince, illustrates the type of effort – you can't get into these side streets
in any truck or anything. There's only a wheelbarrow will go there. We saw individuals rebuilding their own houses, patching up their own houses (inaudible) construction.
Others you've got a plot that's clean and a temporary shelter goes up.
The challenge of long-term housing is it really does take years to put in place. And even right now, when approximately 31,000 temporary shelters have been built – I
talked with three major NGOs, they were cranking out about 500 a week. It's a tremendous effort to build something of this scale. And we found that even those temporary
shelters that were built, individuals were starting to put their own concrete around them to reinforce them over time. It really is one of the lessons we've learned from
disasters and shelter, that a transition to temporary shelters is the best step and best way to go because you could help more people faster. And ultimately, they used
the resources of that temporary shelter to build a new home for themselves.
MR. CROWLEY: And the challenge for – how do you, in the process of developing temporary shelters, bring any shelter up to a particular level of code so that should
an earthquake or some other disaster happen to Haiti in the future, or maybe when a disaster happens in Haiti in the future, since it's just as vulnerable to hurricanes
as well – that we're not going to see the same kind of devastation sometime in the future.
MR. ADAMS: Right, it's actually pretty easy to bring these houses up to an earthquake and hurricane-proof code. I visited several neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince
where we are repairing houses, and about half the housing in Port-au-Prince was not damaged. It's green housing. Another, say, 30 percent is repairable housing, and only
really when you get down to it, about 15 or 20 percent is – needs to be knocked down. So there's a big effort to repair these houses.
And the way you do it when there's a damaged wall is – in the old standard, these are cinderblock buildings, and the cement between the cinderblocks in the old Haitian
model was this thick. Well, I had a guy show me there – he got two big Haitian workmen, and the night before he'd done two blocks – one with a very thick concrete between
it and the other one a fingernail. And then he had these two Haitians – he kind of put these bricks together, had the two Haitians sit on a tee, and the one that had this
much broke right away. The one that was this thick didn't break with the two guys rocking. Put two more large Haitian men on their laps, they rocked; didn't break. Only when they put a third large guy on there did it break. And then when you put a little rebar in there, you have a very strong structure. And the workmen who saw this demonstration were converted. They went around preaching it, putting this done.*
So there are these kinds of standards that are being interpreted for local construction, repair. But as you pointed out, when you go in these neighborhoods
and remove rubble by hand, you can't do it mechanized because that erases property lines, so that's a slow process. But in most of these disasters, the rebuilding
didn't hit its peak until about 18 months after, and you see this. I know rubble removal was slow at first. It's picked up in recent months. T-shelter building has
picked up as well as these NGOs figure out the system, figure out how to work through Customs and all the challenges that are down there.
Now on the t-shelters, they (are) in theory much quicker. You take a plot of land; you don't have to clear off the rubble and do it. And there again, we have
been slow. The United States has built about 13,000 t-shelters, about half of the total, and we did not meet our targets because the NGOs have just had some problems.
Some NGOs figure it out; others haven't. But again, they're all picking up their pace. So we will do – I think in the next six to eight months, you'll see a lot more
building of temporary shelters and repair of the old homes.
MR. WORTHINGTON: When you talk about the types of problems you have, you have a piece of land, there are two owners of the land, you have a building on the land,
there are three people claiming ownership for the building, there's no set one title system, it's a discussion then with the neighborhood as to really who does own
the land. And you end up with a slow, complicated process of establishing a plot so that when you do build something, the person on that plot can really have some
We're recognizing that this is a country that did not have a title system, nor a legal system around titles, so it really comes down to a community-level conversation.
And to rush those conversations could be making mistakes, even if it means putting up housing quicker.
MR. CROWLEY: I want to draw some questions in from our viewing audience, but just one last one before we do. You were talking about how do you scale this up? And
perhaps, given other experiences – the Somalian is one example— broadly speaking, are we on an appropriate track here, and – or are we a bit behind schedule, in your
MR. WORTHINGTON: You look at the level of suffering and it's hard to say we're on an appropriate track. If you compare it to other disasters, we're operating at
a pace that's faster in many ways. You've got 90 percent of the children that were in school before the earthquake are now back in school. Those schools are tents. As
of – Save the Children, they're in the process of trying to build about 54 schools over the next year. These efforts will take time. But the reality that 90 percent of
the children are back in school sounds good except that half the children were not in school before the earthquake. So we have to recognize that building Haiti is in
many ways building Haiti for the first time. It is not rebuilding Haiti. It is enabling a country, a people, to build a society that – the society they want. And that
will take a lot of time because we started in a very different place than, for example, in Chile or other places. We started from a very poor country with little
infrastructure, and it's that commitment long-term, that's the crucial bit at this point in time.
MR. ADAMS: That's a very good point. Yeah, I think before the earthquake, I think you should realize, six out of seven people in Port-au-Prince lived in
miserable slums without access to clean water, or 40 percent of the people in Haiti had no access to healthcare. We could go on and on with these statistics, but
they're pretty grim.
MR. CROWLEY: But the time factor is – are we talking a decade? Or we talking two, of sustained effort internationally to get Haiti where it needs to be?
MR. ADAMS: I think Haiti's going to need at least a decade of sustained effort, and I think we are certainly committed to that in the U.S. Government. I think
our partners are. I know the NGO community is also committed to the long term there.
MR. WORTHINGTON: Many of our organizations have been there 20 years. We don't want to be there for another 20 years. But it's also important to recognize that
to build a better Haiti that as much effort has to happen outside Port-au-Prince, that we need to tap into economic quarters, that we need to help individuals reach up
to markets. Basic issues of literacy, hoping and investing in education so that there's less brain drain and more individuals who graduate from high school stay in the
country. And creating an environment where U.S. business, but more importantly the diaspora and other businesses can invest in this country. And only then will you see
Haiti move. It will take 10 years before we see Port-au-Prince back to where it could be. But it needs – we're talking about a generational investment. And the American
people, I would hope, see Haiti as a partner for the long term.
MR. CROWLEY: Speaking of that relief effort, Joanna H (ph) in California wrote us and said it appears we've been wasting valuable resources in Haiti doing things
the wrong way. Most Haitians do not feel the U.S.-approved elections were truly democratic. Reconstruction plans only benefit a small group of people, maybe only
favored by 17 percent of Haitians, according to an Oxfam poll. And the UN stabilization mission – the UN's played an important role here – is building roads, dams,
instead of holding guns. Who's benefiting from the foreign policy in Haiti?
MR. ADAMS: Well, I think most Haitians benefit in some way from the reconstruction assistance. And when I go to the tent camps and start talking to people,
they say, “Oh, I haven't seen that check that I should be getting here.” And I said, “Well, who gave you the tent you're living in? Who gives you your water? Who built
a clinic there? Who educates your kids? Who does the feeding program?” So, I mean, I think there are benefits flowing to Haitians. There's cash-for-work programs that
employ a lot of people. So there are benefits flowing to, I think, the most needy. Indications are that Haitians who were malnourished before the earthquake are better
nourished. There's still some malnutrition there, and we have targeted—we still feed about 1.7 million Haitians a day for that reason.
The elections were problematic. Elections in Haiti are always problematic, always associated with violence. And I think the key here is we are getting it sorted out
with the help of the OAS and will do so. So I don't think our money has been wasted there. A lot of the money that we spent in the past has saved lives, has built some
infrastructure, and built capacity.
MR. WORTHINGTON: I've seen real concrete results, and non-profits, NGOs – I mean, we're not part of U.S. foreign policy. Our focus is on the poorest, weakest
individuals in the camp, and yet we're part of the system that is responding. And in focusing on the weakest individuals – I'll give an example I gave earlier of Corail
—the individuals in that camp were indentified through a survey process that the USAID had funded as individuals most at risk as being washed away during
hurricane season. They voluntarily asked to leave. They were resettled in a new area and provided with shelter. There's then someone right next door who says, why
didn't – did they get the shelter and not me. And it's understandable with so much need that those who get something more than others, it raises questions.
But the real effort has been to provide broader services. And the service—provision of services creates a tension for a non-profit. You can provide services in a
camp –fresh water, access to medical services, shelter of some degree – that are actually, unfortunately, better than where individuals were outside that camp. So the
camps become a magnet. Do you, over time, actually lessen your investment in services in that camp as you increase services in a neighborhood, enabling individuals to
start up their houses in a more sustainable way?
It's that transition of services that we are beginning to see in different parts of Haiti. It leads to tremendous tensions, perhaps of who has and who doesn't have; if you were feeding someone you're not anymore because you don't want the camps to be non-sustainable over time; you're a clinic that was in a cam, has moved out into a community. And at that point you have this transition. That is difficult. It requires a lot of community outreach, and it's understandable that people want us to do more.
MR. CROWLEY: You were talking earlier about the difference between what's happening in Port-au-Prince and also helping all of Haiti. Randy (ph) in California
writes about decentralization. What steps are being taken to diffuse both workplaces, offices, and populations away from the capital, and how much success has there
been in this, or a timeline for not only rebuilding Port-au-Prince but also building more significantly the outlying areas?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I mean, you're going to ultimately have to end up with solid economic zones outside Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince will remain a magnet for
individuals to move in. We have mapped where the NGO community is working and found that most of the activity of our community – and this is at InterAction\Haiti—
it's our map of—well, it's roughly half of the NGOs operating there. It provides details on some 500 projects. Those projects are primarily in rural areas, and
the challenge is is that there isn't enough economic activity in rural areas or other viable ways to get to market without going to Port-au-Prince. And that's where we
need these economic zones, different economic zones in the future.
MR. ADAMS: Let me add to that, if I may, P.J. The current Haiti constitution allows for decentralization, stronger local government, but it's never been
implemented or funded. The government, in its development plan, committed itself to greater decentralization. And just as the services that are most important to us
are local here – our garbage collection, our police, you name it—the same is true—is going to be true in Haiti and should be true. Decentralized services are much
more efficient because the providers are closer to the people.
So there is a plan to do that. And one of that is, as Sam said, to build these economic zones. We have three economic development zones outside of Port-au-Prince to
develop. One is up in Cap-Haitien, one is kind of in the middle of country, and one is on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Other countries are working in the south and
the west and other countries to develop these economic zones. And part of that is building housing for government workers, sort of middle-class housing, and putting in
other infrastructure so that we do really decentralize and have prosperity throughout the country and decongest Port-au-Prince.
MR. CROWLEY: What was the population of Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake, and what do we—what does the Haitian Government see as a more appropriate,
sustainable level? So in other words, how much movement for the population will it not only envision, but incentivize to try to get them to do that?
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I think before the earthquake it was something like 4 million people, but it's the only place where there were jobs. And after the earthquake,
with all of the rubble removal, the reconstruction, everybody flocked in from the countryside looking for those jobs. Since then, there has been some return to the
countryside, but we need to move the jobs elsewhere.
MR. WORTHINGTON: And the challenge is, as in most countries, developing countries in the world, that it is the capital city that is the draw. And it has been
very difficult to create other areas. It's entirely possible that Port-au-Prince remains its same size for years to come, but that as population increases in Haiti
that that population spreads in different areas. That's what I would hope for over time. It is clearly an – overpopulated, as the city was built for 300,000 people
with over 3 million living there. There's no land available to do much of anything. The big difference between this earthquake and the response to the tsunami in
Indonesia is, in the tsunami, NGOs had large spaces to build villages and large construction efforts. Here there's no land to do that. It is densely packed
neighborhoods, and it's rebuilding one house at a time.
MR. CROWLEY: We do have a global audience for Conversations with America, and we're fascinated by Edras (ph) from Sudan writing in: Why is there no political
stability in Haiti when there are so many people suffering from illness and the lack of food? And this comes at a time where Sudan is going through a very important
referendum for its future. But we've talked – we touched about the importance of the ongoing election, but how much time will it take to kind of build the institutions,
whether it's in the capital, at the national level, or outside at the local level, that provides Haiti with that kind of stability that it badly needs?
MR. WORTHINGTON: I think for the NGO community our job is not to build governments, but we can build local government. We can help a local mayor, we can
second staff into a local CODEP that is engaged in planning in a region. And it is that partnership with government. It's a recognition that you're there as a guest,
that your resources can and should work with the local government.
But we're talking about a time of decades. It's –one individual who's run one of the CODEP areas, which is one of the local communes that sort of manage a small
area of about 140,000 people he mentioned. He talked that most of the individuals running this have between eight or nine years of education. You need to have a
sustained process of investing in the capacity of the Haitian people and also in the capacity of this government. And we look at it from the bottom up, and then it's
the broader international community that helps in the other direction.
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I mean, Haiti needs more policemen. They have about 7,000 policemen who are fairly well respected due to a lot of training that was done before
the earthquake. They need more like 12,000, at least. And so to help them out until they get there, MINUSTAH—the United Nations—has police and military
there. The military often comes from Brazil or Chile or a country in the region, and that's – they do a lot of good things for the country.
Their judicial system needs retuning. It's largely broken. Their prisons are in very, very poor shape, and so there needs to be prison building. So I think getting
that whole judicial system up and running is a challenge, and we're already engaged in that with help from the UN and a lot of other organizations.
MR. CROWLEY: We're coming to the conclusion of our program, but maybe one last question is: If we're sitting here a year from now, how would you hope that
the picture in Haiti is different one year from now than it is today?
MR. ADAMS: Yeah, I'll just say, when I took this job, I asked people, I said, "How come Haiti stagnated while the Dominican Republic soared economically."
Because about 40 years ago they were both at the same place. In fact, Haiti was slightly above there. And I asked every development economist I met what was the
difference? And the best answer I got was basically the Dominican Republic had slightly better dictators than Haiti did back in the old days, and they were able to get
the economic pendulum swinging upward.
I don't think—and I say that for a couple of reasons. One is you don't have to have a perfect government to make economic progress. And so people who insist
that we fix everything in Haiti before there's progress, you don't need to. You just need to make certain good macroeconomic decisions. And I think we're – we know
how to do that and we are doing that.
So a year from now, I think the picture on the ground will be much better because, as I said, we're picking up momentum as we go along. And I think in two or three
years, you'll see significant numbers of sustain – sustainable jobs being created in Haiti, and that's really the key to success there.
MR. CROWLEY: And how important is the – resolving the election in a way that helps to continue to promote that momentum?
MR. ADAMS: It's important in two ways. One, the people of Haiti have to have confidence in their government. They have historically not had much confidence
in their government. And then we need to help the government to perform better, and there's a lot of assistance going to building up the government. But also,
investors need to have confidence in Haiti. As Robert Rubin used to say, "Capital is a coward." And they'll go elsewhere if Haiti is viewed as unstable. So again, the
leaders in Haiti, the political leaders, have to figure out a way to bring political stability there.
MR. CROWLEY: What would you like to see over the next 12 months?
MR. WORTHINGTON: It's going to be a long, hard slog . The first thing I'd like to see from outside Haiti is that the international community is still paying
attention, that we're still there, that we recognize that this is not a quick fix. It depends, to some extent, how the elections come out and, hopefully if there is—and
this would be the best we could see – some clear vision from the Haitian Government of where to bring the Haitian people, a vision that resonates with people in the
camps we're rebuilding, then taking the hard steps of taking these broad plans that have been established and making them operational and sticking with the framework
that has been put in place. And part of that effort requires an outreach to Haitian civil society, because ultimately this is about the Haitian people and their
And my wish is a year from now is that there is a good dialogue between the Haitian Government, Haitian civil society, that the effort—the momentum that many
NGOs are saying they have today—is seeing the point where groups are starting to pull out, that camps are closed not because people have been forced out, but
because there is clearly a place to go. It is likely that there'll still be some camps a year from now. But I would like to see a Haiti a year from now with the vast
majority of the people who are affected by this earthquake have some form of livelihood to pull themselves together.
MR. CROWLEY: And finally, in terms of being able to draw that capital into Haiti and be able to sustain the momentum and the attention from the international
community, how important is the role of the diaspora, say, within the United States in terms of keeping the pressure on governments and the international community to
continue to sustain this effort?
MR. WORTHINGTON: That is crucial. Yes, we'll push our Congress, push other actors here in the United States that this is not something that we give up, that
is in the national interest, in the interest of families, it's a humanitarian venture. But ultimately, something that this is really a true test of the international
community. We are trying to help a nation stand itself up after an incredible devastation in one of the world's largest humanitarian efforts.
If we succeed at doing this, we will be able to show in partnership with the Haitian people and the Haitian Government that we know how to handle these things. And
I think our challenge is to look at that goal over time and to recognize, even though we may have setbacks one year or the next, that ultimately we have no choice but
to achieve it.
MR. CROWLEY: Gentlemen, Tom Adams, Sam Worthington, thank you very much for joining us and thank you for joining us for another Conversation With America.
For the source of this press release—including a video of the interview—and more from the Bureau of Public Affairs, visit the following sites:
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Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton -
One Year Commemoration of Haiti's Earthquake
Press Statement from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
January 11, 2011
One year ago, on January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti and took the lives of more than 200,000 people. Hundreds of thousands more were
injured and more than a million were left homeless. Buildings crumbled and recent economic growth was erased in a matter of seconds. As we mark this day, let us
pause to remember all those who lost their lives or loved ones in this tragedy. Here at the State Department and USAID, we also honor the service and sacrifice of
our friends and colleagues who were lost and those who have tenaciously persevered, selflessly dedicating themselves to rebuilding Haiti.
In the past year more than 140 nations came together to support Haiti in its time of need. That spirit of cooperation must continue if we are to help Haiti overcome
this tragedy. The resilience of the people of Haiti continues to inspire us. Their determination has set an example for all of us to follow and serves as a beacon of
hope for the country's future. The United States continues to work with the Haitian people along with our international partners and non-governmental organizations to
help catalyze Haiti's renewal.
Let us all rededicate ourselves to partnering with the people of Haiti in their pursuit to build back anew.
For the source of this press release, and more information and remarks from Secretary Clinton, visit the following sites:
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The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration -
Mission to Laos
News from Eric P. Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugeees and Migration
June 25, 2010
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
This is the second of two notes on my recent trip to Thailand and Laos. In the previous letter, I discussed the Thailand portion
of the trip and issues relating to Burmese in Thailand. This note concerns my visit to Laos.
I was in the country between June 13th and 16th, to focus on the situation of some 4,500 Lao Hmong asylum-seekers who were
involuntarily returned to Laos from Thailand in December 2009 over strong U.S. objections. According to Thai authorities, this group
had been screened by Thai officials, and many hundreds had apparently been deemed by Thai authorities to merit protection. The
returnees also included 158 persons who had been designated by UNHCR to be Persons of Concern, deserving of protection. This is the
so-called "Nong Khai group," so named because they spent three years at the Nong Khai immigration detention center in Thailand before
View of Phonekham Development Village, home to approximately 3,500 Lao Hmong returnees. In the foreground is Pak Beuak Village, the closest of the villages in the area pre-dating Phonekham's establishment in December 2009. Phonekham Village is in the background.
Photo by Hoa Tran, PRM Program Officer, Borikhamxai Province, Laos. June 14, 2010.
Our deep interest in this population stems from the very difficult circumstances surrounding their return in December and concerns about
their well-being and protection, as well as from the ties between the returnees and their friends and relatives in the United States. During
my visit, I sought to express the continuing interest of the United States in the situation of the returnees, to encourage regular access to
returnees by international humanitarian organizations, and to persuade the authorities to permit Lao Hmong who have secured resettlement offers
overseas to emigrate. In the company of Lao Brigadier General Bouasieng Champaphanh and several other Lao officials, I visited the Phonekham
Development Village, where the majority of those who had been returned in December are now living. The visit was a short one, and while I did
not have the chance to interact freely with residents, I did tell them we were very interested in and concerned about their well-being. Although
conditions in the village are very basic, I was encouraged to see that electricity had reached the village and construction had begun on at least
one of what I was told will be nine schools, and a 10-bed medical facility.
During my visit to Phonekham and over the course of my visit in Laos, I also heard from village residents, local officials and
others about the ability of people in the village to speak by cell phone to their relatives overseas and to travel from the village,
and about the availability of identity documents—which are important to accessing a range of benefits in Laos. Village residents apparently
can communicate by cell phone with relatives overseas, though one report we received (but have not verified) suggests that authorities have
asked village residents to register cell phone numbers. In addition, we were told that villagers may travel, but had to report their travel
plans in advance. Finally, we were told that household registrations had been provided to villagers, and applications had been completed and
submitted for national identity cards.
Discussing Lao Hmong issues with Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Photo by Hoa Tran, PRM Program Officer, Vientiane, Laos. June 15, 2010.
On my second day in Laos, I met with members of the diplomatic community, as well as with Brigadier General Bouasieng and Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister
Thongloun Sisoulith. In those meetings, I explained our deep interest in the population of returnees, and I urged, in particular, that
Lao officials consider three measures: 1) establishing an office that could receive and respond to inquiries about the status and well-being
of individuals who were returned; 2) regular access to returnees by international humanitarian organizations; and 3) provision of a written
record of those returned to Laos in December 2009. I suggested that these measures could go a long way in building confidence among a wide range
of constituencies. Finally, I encouraged my Lao interlocutors to enable those individuals who were deemed by UNHCR to be Persons of Concern to
take advantage of offers of resettlement that have been made by several governments.
Although we did not reach closure on any of these issues, I felt the conversations were constructive and provided the basis for progress.
In particular, I was encouraged when my Lao interlocutors emphasized that all Lao citizens have the right to travel abroad, and I hope this
will provide the basis for movement on the so-called Nong Khai group. We will continue discussions on these important issues in the weeks and
months to come.
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
View the source of this letter, and much more from Secretary Schwartz and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration,
by visiting the following sites:
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The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration -
Visit with Burmese Refugees on the Thai-Burma Border
News from Eric P. Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugeees and Migration
December 16, 2009
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I wanted to report to you on a recent trip to Thailand and Laos. It was a long trip, so I will provide two separate notes. The
first will focus on the Thailand portion of the visit from June 10-12 and, in particular, the situation of Burmese refugees in
As you may know, political repression in Burma has resulted in a decades-long exodus of Burmese, including ethnic minorities, to
Thailand and elsewhere in the region. There are now roughly 140,000 refugees in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border, primarily
from the Karen and Karenni communities, but also including smaller numbers of Mon, Chin, Kachin, Shan and other ethnic groups. In
addition, there are an estimated two million vulnerable Burmese residing elsewhere in Thailand. And while the Thai authorities have
made clear that local integration is not an option for this community and have occasionally pushed back border crossers, the Thai
Government has generally maintained a policy of tolerance and refuge for the Burmese. The United States strongly supports such an
approach, and it is therefore incumbent upon us to provide financial assistance to the many organizations that are assisting Burmese
communities in Thailand.
On my first day in Thailand, June 10th, I met with a range of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international
organization (IO) representatives, as well as senior Thai officials, including Tawin Pleansri, the Secretary General of the National
Security Council, and Theerakun Niyom, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I first emphasized our strong view
that the elections in Burma, whenever they do occur, are not likely to create safe conditions for return of Burmese who are now in
Thailand. I stressed that judgments on the feasibility of return must be made based on the reality of conditions on the ground, and
not on whether or not an election has taken place. I also encouraged Thai officials to work with donors in exploring increased
livelihood opportunities for Burmese refugees in Thailand. On all these issues, my Thai interlocutors clearly understood and appreciated
our concerns, and we will sustain an intensive dialogue on these issues in the months to come.
With the assistance of Yuri, an interpreter with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), I spoke with Talemu, a 68-year old Burmese Karen. Though she has lived in Mae La Camp for the past six years Talemu told me she does not want to return to Burma due to the ongoing threats and abuse by the Burmese regime.
Photo by Hoa Tran, PRM Program Officer, Mae La Camp, Tak Province, Thailand. June 11, 2010.
On June 11th, I traveled to the Thai-Burma border, and visited the Mae La camp near Mae Sot. Although the U.S.
government has been able to modestly increase its support to the camps through funds provided by the Bureau of Population, Refugees,
and Migration (PRM), overall assistance has been reduced, with adverse impacts on nutrition, health, medical care, psychosocial
services, efforts to combat gender-based violence, and sanitation. Foreign exchange fluctuations are one cause, but another is a
reduction in support from the European Commission – and we will be exploring ways to address this shortfall in the weeks and months
In Mae Sot, I had the chance to visit with Burmese representatives of support and advocacy groups. I also met with Dr. Cynthia Maung
and visited a clinic she runs for non-camp Burmese in the Mae Sot area and beyond. The clinic has a critical role to play in addressing
the awfully difficult circumstances confronting Burmese in the border areas, which are a direct result of the deplorable state of politics
and governance in Burma. Of course, the ultimate solution is genuine political dialogue and national reconciliation in Burma, but until that
occurs, the work of individuals like Dr. Cynthia is absolutely critical to the protection of vulnerable people.
While PRM is the primary source of U.S. government support of camp-based Burmese, our colleagues at USAID have supported Dr. Cynthia and
other community-based health care and social programs to help the Burmese on both sides of the border. PRM and USAID, together with other
donors and our NGO partners, will continue to work closely together on these critical issues in the months to come.
I met with representatives from the Burmese community to hear about their views on democracy, human rights and the situation in conflict zones in eastern Burma.
Photo by Hoa Tran, PRM Program Officer. Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand. June 12, 2010.
Finally, near Mae Sot, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S.-supported refugee resettlement processing facility operated by the International
Organization for Migration. During my visit, I was privileged to view and participate in cultural orientation classes sponsored by the
International Rescue Committee (IRC) for refugees who are about to resettle in the United States. It was very moving for me to be with refugees
about to begin new lives, and inspiring to witness the dedication and commitment of IRC staff and IOM colleagues to preparing these individuals
for the challenges ahead.
As promised, I will shortly send a note on my mission to Laos.
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
View the source of this letter, and much more from Secretary Schwartz and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration,
by visiting the following sites:
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
Cote d'Ivoire's Independence Day
Press Statement from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
August 5, 2010
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Cote d'Ivoire as you celebrate the fiftieth
anniversary of your independence this August 7.
Cote d'Ivoire has made great progress in the last few years in resolving the complex challenges that come with a diverse
population. On this historic occasion, you can reflect with pride on the tolerance, hard work and determination that helped your
country become a leader in West Africa. These same values can also be the foundations for a successful future. The United States
supports the people of Cote d'Ivoire's aspirations for renewed democracy, and we share your eagerness for elections that will
help move the country beyond political stalemate to lasting unity. Political stability and the rule of law are vital building
blocks for a prosperous and sustainable future.
I wish all Ivoirians a safe and joyous Independence Day and reaffirm the commitment of the United States to our enduring
friendship. May this year be the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity in Cote d'Ivoire.
View the source of this statement, and further information and remarks from Secretary of State Clinton, by visiting the following sites:
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The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor -
Visit to Auschwitz and Dachau
Remarks from Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism,
Rashad Hussain, Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference
September 16, 2010
Joining eight imams in prayer at Dachau concentration camp was a powerful experience and a profound show of faith and solidarity with the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. This event took place even as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia spread across the world. For these eight religious leaders, the future will be shaped by a shared understanding of the past, not by the prejudice of the present. As representatives of government and communities we joined these clerics to bear witness to the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust and reaffirm the pledge - "never again."
This unusual study tour of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps was initiated and led by an Orthodox Jew, sponsored by a German think tank on interreligious values and attended by eight American imams from varying backgrounds – including many who were educated in systems where the history of the Holocaust is not taught.
Marshall Breger, a Catholic University Law Professor and leader of the expedition, explained that the impetus behind the effort is to address, head-on, the denial of the Holocaust that is part of growing anti-Semitism in Muslim communities. His goal, one which we share, is to educate those who might not have the kind of knowledge we have about the Holocaust; to promote understanding; and even change.
As the group started into the camp it was clear that this was a remarkable moment in history. Together, we listened as survivors bravely shared their horrific experiences of discrimination, suffering and loss. Together, we watched as Max Mannheimer, a survivor of both Auschwiz and Dachau, rolled back his sleeve to show the tattoo permanently marked on his arm.
Walking down the train tracks from the Judenrampe to the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, many remarked that they were not observing the sites as Muslims, Jews, or religious leaders, but as parents who could relate the horror of being separated from their children. Here, the words of Imam Muzammil Siddiqi rang true, "We came here to understand the pain of the Jewish community. This is in order to improve relationships because you cannot build relationships with people unless you know what they've been through."
Determined to share this message of mutual understanding, the imams had this to say in a historic joint statement:
"...We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality (of the Holocaust) and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics. We condemn anti-Semitism in any form. No creation of Almighty God should face discrimination based on his or her faith or religious conviction..."
We are deeply aware of the growing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry that have blossomed worldwide. We believe, as our delegation does, that now more than ever people of faith must stand together for truth. As the Qu'ran says, we must "stand up firmly for justice" and the Torah tells us "Justice, justice shall you pursue."
We honor this remarkable experience by talking about it as clearly and definitively as possible. As President Obama forcefully stated in his address before Muslim communities around the world, Holocaust denial “is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful.” We must advance the universal message that such evil and darkness can only occur when people choose not to confront it. We will discuss this shared narrative among Jewish and Muslim people with the hope that our futures will hold more understanding and partnership.
We went to Germany and Poland to see Dachau and Auschwitz concentration and extermination camps. We stood together bearing witness to the most sinister and evil chapter of history, to the unthinkable deeds of governments, to the silence of so many, and to the willingness of those who became the executioners. We affirmed that education and dialogue are necessary first steps to overcome bigotry and ignorance. We expressed shared understanding of the dangers of ongoing polarization between Muslim and Jewish communities.
We came away with a new commitment to promote peace, understanding, respect, and empathy among our communities. We will provide leadership, foster partnerships and build collaborative efforts around combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We are encouraged by this and other examples of interfaith collaboration developed organically through the vision and commitment of civil society and religious leaders. We thank the Konrad Adenaur Foundation for making this experience possible.
Salaam and Shalom,
U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference
View the source of these remarks, as well as much more from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, by visiting the following sites:
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The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration -
US Government Plenary Statement - 61st Session of the UNHCR Executive Committee
Remarks from Eric P. Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugeees, and Migration
October 4, 2010
Mr. Chairman, Mr. High Commissioner, distinguished delegates of governments and civil society, I'm very pleased to be in Geneva once again
leading the United States delegation to the Executive Committee of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). I am grateful for
the High Commissioner's statement laying out the broad scope both of the accomplishments of UNHCR over the past year, and of the challenges
that lie ahead.
As we move forward collectively to consolidate those accomplishments and address those challenges, I believe we must do so with protection
directly in our sights. Indeed, the protection of the most vulnerable—helping to advance their dignity and their rights—must be at the center
of everything we do. This goal, of saving and safeguarding human life, is not only a moral imperative, but helps to avoid despair and desperation
that fuels discontent and prevents reconciliation in societies in conflict.
Because this protection perspective must inform everything we do, allow me to lay out a few basic propositions that inform our thinking and our
engagement with UNHCR and with others on protection.
First, it is essential that humanitarians embrace broader and more integrated perspectives on protection, both conceptually and operationally.
Whether or not protection has ever been the exclusive domain of the specially mandated agencies such as UNHCR, protection is now a collective
responsibility that involves vigilance and action by the full range of UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, international organizations,
donor governments, and hosting governments. Serious and sustained engagement of UNHCR with other parts of the international system—from
peacekeepers to those negotiating political agreements to end conflicts which create suffering—has never been more important. And while first
asylum and non-refoulement must remain at the heart of international refugee protection efforts, we must all rise to other protection challenges
as well, such as combating gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, promoting freedom of movement, security and rights related to
personal status, and many others. And humanitarians must weave a protective approach more deeply into the design of the programs relating to food,
shelter, health, sanitation, among others – what some call the mainstreaming of protection. The challenge is to develop and further refine best
practices that seek to empower local communities in such efforts.
Secondly, more ambitious objectives related to protection must be matched by sustained and measureable efforts to monitor and evaluate progress –
including efforts that more clearly identify protection gaps that traditional humanitarian providers will be unable to fill in the absence of
stronger action in the political and security realm.
Third, we must recognize that a strengthened commitment to protection—to saving and safeguarding lives—requires a willingness to
engage in active humanitarian diplomacy and in both private and public advocacy. From South Asia to Central Africa to North America, humanitarian
diplomacy and advocacy has enhanced the quality of protection efforts on the ground. More importantly, it keeps faith with those vulnerable people
whom UNHCR is mandated to seek to protect. As a government official, I don't always relish being challenged on policies or actions we are taking,
but we must champion the right and responsibility of our partners to play this role.
One final proposition is that all of us must strive to practice at home what we preach in international forums like this one. For many donor
governments, this relates to our policies on temporary protection, rescue at sea, treatment of asylum seekers on our territory, and many other
issues. For refugee receiving countries, this often means gauging policy on safe haven and the appropriateness of returns not on the realities
of geopolitics, but rather on a fair assessment of whether conditions in the country of origin, whether Burma or the Darfur region of Sudan, have
changed sufficiently to enable people to return in safety.
On this general issue of practicing at home what we preach abroad, the United States has, over the past year, taken special interest in the
U.S. refugee resettlement program – to ensure that we are providing adequate support for the 75,000 or so refugees we have been admitting annually.
And, in fact, we found we could do more to help. Despite a very challenging budget environment—and with the generous support of our
Congress—we were able to double the amount of assistance provided by the Department of State to incoming refugees in the first several months
after their arrivals. This increase has amounted to about $70 million on an annual basis.
Mr. Chairman, informed by these general observations on protection, allow me to turn to four critical issues that impact UNHCR's ambitious agenda –
and its capacity to continue to play a meaningful role in protection.
First, we must effectively consolidate the budgetary reforms initiated by the High Commissioner that are beginning to take root. UNHCR's efforts
to present real needs should be matched by the resources necessary to address them if the agency is to fulfill its protection mandate. Providing
protection takes resources – both financial and human. While I recognize that UNHCR's global needs-based budget has unfolded during difficult economic
times, I am also mindful that we are here this week in Geneva to champion and support the world's most vulnerable – the persecuted, the
conflict-affected, and stateless persons. Thus, while frustration and donor fatigue are understandable, they are not good options as they contrast
with the progress humanitarians have made in alleviating the suffering of tens of millions of people in recent years.
There's much more we can do to advance this noble cause. For this reason, I'm pleased to report that the Obama Administration, with the strong
endorsement of our Congress, has augmented our support for UNHCR. We have just concluded our 2010 fiscal year in which we provided UNHCR with over
$700 million – our largest annual contribution in history.
Second, better coordination of humanitarian assistance is essential to better protection. Our commitment to UNHCR must be matched by a deep
commitment to enhance the tools for coordination of the proliferation of humanitarian responders who are trying to safeguard lives and create the
conditions for sustainable recovery around the world. We are at a critical crossroads – facing humanitarian emergencies of historical proportions.
Leadership is essential. We count on UNHCR to do its part, consistent with its mandate, resources, and guidance from Member States – in building
the system for international humanitarian response. And we look forward to working with the new UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos on these
Third, securing safe environments in which protection can be provided is becoming more and more difficult. Relief workers embody the universal
truth that we are at our best when we come together to help the most vulnerable among us. Time and again, this ideal puts humanitarian workers on
the front lines of crises, from the earthquake in Haiti to the floods in Pakistan or any of the conflicts that dot the globe. I am painfully aware
of the difficulties of reconciling the need to ensure the safety of both local and international staff with UNHCR's mandate to protect and assist
the most vulnerable, especially in highly insecure areas. But even as we do our utmost to protect humanitarian workers, security postures must shift
from considering when to leave a situation to figuring out how to stay. We look forward to working with UNHCR as it develops its efforts in this area.
And finally, last year I spoke of my government's commitment in word and deed to promote active efforts to address protracted refugee situations –
one of the most compelling humanitarian challenges confronting governments around the world. Millions of refugees—mostly women and children—have
lived in exile for more than a decade in 30 protracted situations around the world. Beyond the humanitarian imperative, progress on protracted refugee
situations serves the interests of international peace and security. For example, when we effectively support assistance, education and livelihood
opportunities for refugees in neighboring countries as well as for the communities that host them, we promote cooperation among these groups and enhance
the ultimate capacity of the refugees to contribute to development in their countries of origin when return becomes possible. Strategic and sustained
international engagement in a focused set of protracted situations will promote durable solutions, or at least better situations, for these refugees.
We are now engaging in a strengthened U.S. effort on protracted refugee situations – and we look forward to working with UNHCR and Member States in
the months ahead to bring durable solutions to many millions of people.
In closing, let me express my government's deep gratitude to the staff of UNHCR for their contributions to the cause we all serve: the protection
of refugees and the displaced – a responsibility which we are proud and privileged to support.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
View the source of this statement, as well as much more from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration by visiting the following sites:
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -
15th Anniversary of Srenbrenica Genocide
Press Statement from Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
July 11, 2010
Today we remember the tragic events in Srebrenica 15 years ago. I join President Obama and the people of the United States in offering our deepest
condolences on this most solemn occasion. We honor the memories of the victims and mourn with their families.
The United States stands with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and all countries in the region who wish to foster peace and reconciliation. We remain
committed to ensuring that those responsible for these crimes face justice. We recognize that there can be no lasting peace without justice. It
is only by bringing all responsible parties to account for their crimes that we will truly honor Srebrenica's victims.
We are duty-bound—to the victims, to their surviving family members, and to future generations—to prevent such atrocities from happening
again. Our common faith in the value of freedom and peace unifies us and drives us to act. That is why we are committed to working with all the
communities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward and build a pluralistic, democratic state that can take its rightful place in the
Euro-Atlantic community. A prosperous, free, and unified Bosnia and Herzegovina is the most worthy monument to those who lost their lives at
Srebrenica and the best guarantee against such a tragedy ever repeating itself.
View the source of these remarks, as well as more information and remarks from Secretary Clinton, by visiting the following sites:
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