USG Statement as an Observer to the Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration

U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde

Mr. Chairman, distinguished fellow government representatives, multilateral partners, civil society, and ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be participating in this important commemorative event with such distinguished colleagues and valued regional partners. I would like to thank the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council, which have played a key role in bringing partners together and keeping up momentum for the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees. I would also like to express our deep appreciation to the Government of Brazil for serving as host of this commemorative event.

It is fitting that we gather today in Brazil, a country with over seven thousand refugees from 81 different countries – numbers that testify to the fact that Brazil is increasingly viewed as a land of opportunity by some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, a trend likely to continue in the future.

The 30th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, and the Brasilia declaration, provides us with the opportunity to reflect on progress in addressing humanitarian issues affecting our hemisphere, and to propose new and innovative solutions to improve the protection of refugee, displaced, and stateless persons in the region.

The United States prides itself in being a nation that welcomes those fleeing violence and oppression. The U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 enshrined this ideal in law. The Obama Administration has made a point of welcoming refugees from the region to the United States. Over the past five years, the United States has resettled more than three hundred thousand from the whole world. Refugees have made our communities more vibrant and our nation stronger. We are determined to work together with you to help others caught in conflicts find safety, dignity, and the opportunity to live in peace.

Looking forward, one problem that is high on our agenda is statelessness. The U.S. government strongly supports UNHCR’s Global Action Plan to prevent and reduce statelessness and to protect stateless persons, and uses diplomacy to work with other governments in the region to prevent and resolve situations that leave people without nationality. We support the goals outlined in the Cartagena + 30 program to eradicate statelessness in the Americas in the next ten years.

For my government, a challenge close to home is unaccompanied children and families making the harrowing journey from Central America to the Southwest border of the United States.  Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arrived at our southern border this year.  The Obama Administration, through a recently announced Executive decree on immigration, has worked to develop a humane and effective response, including by helping build capacity throughout the region to manage migration more effectively and to offer appropriate protections where warranted.  Although the numbers have decreased over the past several months to the lowest we have seen in nearly two years, we must continue our efforts to protect these children and address the underlying factors of violence and poverty in their countries of origin that drive migration.

The United States remains committed to working together with our neighbors, multilaterally and with civil society partners on these and other issues over the long-term to ensure protection, assistance, and durable solutions for the most vulnerable throughout the region. We will continue to draw strength and inspiration from your unwavering commitment and the spirit of the Cartagena Declaration to helping the world’s most vulnerable people find comfort, safety, and a measure of hope. Thank you.