Angelina Jolie Pitt, Samantha Power headline World Refugee Day events in U.S.
The United States resettles more refugees than any other country, and since 1975 it has welcomed over 3 million refugees to start new lives. On 20 June, communities across the nation gathered to commemorate the strength and resilience of refugees everywhere, as well as the important contributions that refugees continue to make to the United States.
While World Refugee Day is a time to celebrate the lives of refugees, it is also a day to bring awareness to the statistical realities of an ongoing crisis. The UNHCR Global Trends Report for 2015 detailed the unprecedented magnitude of global displacement – 65.3 million displaced worldwide by war, conflict and persecution. This year UNHCR partnered with organizations like The New York Public Library, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Millennium Stage, The U.S. Department of State, and USA for UNHCR to hold three major events in the United States to bring attention to these concerning numbers while also celebrating the importance of refugees to the past, present and future of the United States.
Interfaith iftar with UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt, Washington, DC
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt commemorated World Refugee Day by attending an interfaith iftar – the traditional breaking of the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Joined by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Special Envoy urged the world not to turn its back on conflicts that had displaced 65 million people. "If I ask people for anything on this day, it is to take a moment and to truly grasp what a refugee crisis of today’s magnitude means for peace and security of the world," she told reporters.
“We face a very clear choice: to continue as we are and see displacement and insecurity grow, or, to come together with other nations and find a new approach, one that does not focus solely on aid and resettlement, but on solution, stability and returns.” She added: “Strength lies in mastering and channeling our emotions so that we pursue policies that reduce – not inflame – threats to our security.”
To read the full remarks, click here.
Special Reception at The New York Public Library featuring “Where the Children Sleep”
© UNHCR/H. Farhad
© UNHCR/H. Farhad
UNHCR has brought Magnus Wennman’s stunning photo exhibition “Where the Children Sleep” to the United States for the first time, and partnered with The New York Public Library and the Permanent Mission of the U.S. to the United Nations to hold a special reception and exhibit preview to commemorate World Refugee Day. The exhibition features photos of refugee children sleeping in a wide range of places and circumstances as they making journeys through Europe and the Middle East. The public exhibition opened in The New York Public Library on 27 June and runs through 10 July.
In light of the staggering number of refugees worldwide, Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, encouraged the audience to “take inspiration from the iron will of the refugees themselves. They have remained determined to be agents of their own destiny. Determined to get educated. Determined to find work. Determined to build and to contribute again,” Power added. “All they ask of us is that we give them that chance.”
In his remarks, Mayor de Blasio spoke about New York City’s rich history as a refuge for people fleeing war, famine and persecution. “This is a city that was built by refugees,” he said, “which proves what happens when people reach out a helping hand to refugees and give them a chance at a new start.”
Other speakers at the 20 June event included:
Magnus Wennman, Award-winning photographer of “Where the Children Sleep”
Jeh Johnson, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer-prize winning author and refugee
Tony Marx, President of The New York Library
Ninette Kelley, Director of the UNHCR Liaison Office in New York
Gaby Moreno Concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Millennium Stage
Latin Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Gaby Moreno gave a free concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. The Guatemalan-born singer partnered with UNHCR to bring awareness to the ongoing situation in the Northern Triangle of Central America. Before Moreno took the stage, Chiara Cardoletti-Carroll, Deputy Regional Representative of the UNHCR Office in Washington, gave remarks about the global refugee crisis.
“It is easy for those of us who live in the United States to think of refugees as people in far-off lands, where societies we don’t really understand are being shaken by violence,” Cardoletti said. “However, as we sit here tonight, there are women and children and men on the run from life-threatening situations on this very continent. Many of them are fleeing from the Northern Triangle of Central America, where murder and other violence perpetrated by transnational organized gangs has frankly reached endemic proportions.”
You can watch the full video of the World Refugee Day program here.
© UNHCR/Jenna Froats
© UNHCR/Jenna Froats