Special Briefing
Eric P. Schwartz
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
USAID Acting Administrator for Africa Earl Gast
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, NY
September 24, 2009


MODERATOR: Thanks. I want to just very quickly introduce who’s going to be speaking today. First will be Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz, and from USAID we have the Acting Assistant Administrator for Africa Earl Gast.

So, Mr. Schwartz.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SCHWARTZ: Thanks, Ned. President Obama yesterday reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to engage with partners in the international community to address critical common challenges. And there may be no better symbol of that partnership than the United States’ involvement with and support for UN agencies and other international organizations providing life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to the most vulnerable of the world’s citizens.

I am pleased to announce today that as our fiscal year comes to a close next week, the United States Government will have contributed well over $3 billion this year to the United Nations and other international organizations for the very specific purpose of providing humanitarian assistance, life-saving relief for refugees, for victims of conflict and natural disasters, for stateless people, and for vulnerable migrants. And I have to emphasize that this is in addition to sizeable bilateral assistance and support that we provide through nongovernmental partners worldwide. This year’s contribution represents a record-setting level of multilateral humanitarian assistance from the United States, as well as for any other single government in the world. What a testament, I think, to the principles that President Obama was articulating yesterday at the United Nations.

The U.S. provides assistance on every continent in the world and in most of the developing countries represented at – or nearly all of the developing countries represented at the UN General Assembly. The Obama Administration’s commitment to humanitarian assistance reflects the deeply held belief of the American people that we have a profound moral obligation to assist those who are most in need. There continues to be a growing requirement for humanitarian assistance, which only strengthens our determination to do more. And we believe that our relief, humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation – this generosity builds sustainable partnerships with the people who are the beneficiaries of our assistance, whether from countries that are our allies, or regimes that are at odds with our priorities and our interests. And we’re convinced that this assistance serves the key goal of providing reconciliation, security, and well-being in circumstances where despair and misery not only threaten regional stability, but also broader international security interests.

Now, before I turn the microphone over to Earl, I want to talk a little bit about some of the contributions to international organizations and then – through the State Department, and then Earl will speak about additional contributions through USAID as part of this broader U.S. Government humanitarian assistance family.

We have provided assistance – the Department, the State Department – to UNHCR, to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, to the ICRC, to the International Organization for Migration, World Food Program, our own, through the State Department as well as USAID, which has done much more, to UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the IFRC, to the UN’s Humanitarian Operation, OCHA, and to many other institutions.

Now, I’d like to invite Earl to join – or to take the microphone and talk a little bit about USAID assistance, and then we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

MR. GAST: Thank you, Eric, a pleasure to be here. As Eric mentioned, I represent the USAID’s Africa Bureau. And of course, unfortunately, that’s where many of the humanitarian situations occur, in the Africa Bureau. Also, as Eric mentioned, we are seeing that humanitarian crises are on the rise, but we are working together with our international partners in building partnerships to respond to humanitarian crises.

We see, as I mentioned, that the global humanitarian needs are growing, and they’re growing due to a confluence of factors, including climate change and natural disasters, global economic downturn and food insecurity, population growth and urbanization, and civil strife.

Let me just give you a few numbers just so you get some perspective on the situation in the world. The division of responsibility between AID and PRM is pretty well-defined. We generally support internally displaced persons, PRM refugees. So I’ll give you some statistics regarding internally displaced persons.

If we use 1997 as our benchmark year, there were 17 million IDPs throughout the world. That has increased to 26 million as of last year. And the number of refugees and stateless persons increased as well, and if we look at 2004 as a baseline, roughly 15 million persons, that has grown to nearly 22 million by 2008.

And then when we look at the number of persons who were affected by natural disasters, we see that those – that number has increased from 150 million only in 1990 to more than 300 million in 2008.

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals is threatened as disasters are halting progress towards development by reducing household coping mechanisms, overwhelming health systems and other country systems, and eroding viable markets. Meeting humanitarian needs is one of our top priorities, as Eric mentioned, because humanitarian assistance is the most fundamental expression of American values; and two, besides saving lives and alleviating suffering, humanitarian assistance also contributes to regional stability.

For these reasons, we are pleased that we are able to increase our funding to continue and strengthen our partnership with the UN and other UN organizations. I will run briefly through the numbers of our contributions to international organizations. As Eric mentioned, the fiscal year is coming to a close rapidly, and in this past fiscal year, we provided $1.868 billion, close to $1.9 billion, to 14 UN agencies and international agencies that are working in more than 25 countries. Of that total, the majority went to the World Food Program, roughly 1.717 billion, and then another 60 million to UNICEF and 37 million to IOM, as well as additional funding to 11 other UN agencies.

And that assistance goes to many areas. It goes to agriculture and food security, economic recovery and market systems, humanitarian coordination, and information management.

So the total increase, if we were to compare 2008 to 2009, is one of about $171 million. We are the leaders in supporting humanitarian crises and humanitarian support around the world, and we don’t expect to stop being a leader. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SCHWARTZ: If I may, before we – just to round out Earl’s numbers, the increase that he cited is – probably understates the increase, because that was from the $1.8 billion figure. So you’ve got the 1.8 billion from AID. Let me just get you closer to the about 3.2 billion that we’re at, which does represent an increase from prior years. We’ve done about $641 million to UNHCR; to the UN Relief and Works Agency, about $268 million; to the ICRC, about $256 million.

Earl mentioned IOM, the International Organization of Migration. Together, our two institutions together have probably done about 200 million – over 200 million to IOM, the International Organization for Migration.

And that’s really the bulk of it. There are other organizations, but if you tote those numbers, you’ll get close to $3.2 billion, which represents an increase in our level of effort, and also, clearly, the largest provider of such assistance in the world.

Now, we’d be happy to take any questions that you might have.

QUESTION: Do you have these figures on paper for us?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SCHWARTZ: Yes. We’ll give them to you on paper, absolutely. If you’d give us about – I’d say about – probably about 10 minutes, if you’ve got about that, we’ll come back and we’ll give you the numbers on paper. Okay?

QUESTION: Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SCHWARTZ: Good. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.



PRN: 2009/T12-18