Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
New York City, New York
Good afternoon, excellencies. I would like to thank Madam Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Government of Bangladesh for inviting the United States to co-host this important gathering.
I welcome this occasion to reaffirm our commitment to supporting and finding solutions for displaced Rohingya.
Two months ago, I visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and came away with three key conclusions.
First, I observed the extraordinary generosity of the government and people of Bangladesh. Six years since Bangladesh welcomed more than 740,000 Rohingya driven out by Burma’s military in a brutal campaign of genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, Bangladesh continues to shelter these refugees because it’s the right thing to do and we applaud the government and people of Bangladesh for all they have done.
Second, I saw the life-saving difference humanitarian assistance and the dedicated work of UNHCR, IOM, and others makes in the lives of Rohingya refugees and vulnerable host communities. I also learned of the catastrophic consequences that arise when life-saving aid and support for basic needs does not arrive.
So today, I am proud to announce that the United States is providing more than $116 million in new humanitarian assistance for people displaced in and from Burma as a result of the regime’s escalating violence, and for communities hosting refugees from Burma. This new funding includes more than $74 million for Rohingya refugees inside Bangladesh, in the region, and for communities hosting them. This brings the total amount the United States has provided in response to the Rohingya crisis to more than $2.2 billion since 2017.
This U.S. support enables our humanitarian partners to save lives. It provides protection, shelter, sanitation, and health care. It empowers Rohingya and Bangladeshis to create safer communities and helps ease the strain on host communities.
Third, I witnessed the resolve of Rohingya women, men, and youth to build a future for themselves in Burma when conditions allow. Many of the refugees I met want to return home to a country that recognizes them as its citizens and protects their human rights, guarantees their safety, and holds accountable those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity. Because of the military regime’s brutal, ongoing attempts to extinguish the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma, those conditions do not exist, and fear of continued persecution prevents Rohingya from returning.
In the meantime, Rohingya seek opportunities to build the skills needed to reintegrate sustainably into Rakhine State when conditions allow for their safe, dignified, and voluntary return. We strongly encourage expansion of education and livelihood opportunities for Rohingya while they remain in Bangladesh, as we continue to support the local communities that host them.
And we stand with Rohingya as we call on those gathered here today to maintain pressure on Burma’s military regime to end the crisis and create the conditions for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable repatriations in the future. We have a shared responsibility to work together to stop the violence and hold to account those responsible for genocide and other atrocities against Rohingya. Only then can we hope to see the creation of a peaceful, inclusive, and democratic Burma where all of Burma’s people, including Rohingya, can thrive.
Meanwhile, recognizing that Rohingya cannot safely return to their homeland yet, resettlement is another important way in which we can contribute to comprehensive solutions for the plight of Rohingya. Since 2009, the United States has welcomed nearly 13,000 Rohingya from the region, including from Bangladesh. We prioritize resettlement for the most vulnerable Rohingya, and we strongly encourage other governments to join us in welcoming Rohingya refugees to their countries. So to sum up, the United States is unwavering in our support for Rohingya crisis response, and we welcome our partners’ solidarity.