Thank you, Boris. Esteemed guests. I am pleased to be here with you today to recognize World Refugee Day and to open the USAID-funded Migrant and Refugee Human Rights Protection Project’s Humanitarian Art Bazaar.
I would like to thank the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and Open Gate – La Strada for organizing this event. And I would like to thank Veronique for sharing her beautiful photographs that we have been seeing on the screen here.
Each year on June 20, the United Nations, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and countless civic groups host World Refugee Day events in order to draw attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict, and persecution. World Refugee Day is a moment to take stock of the devastating impact of war and persecution on the lives of those millions, and to honor their courage and resilience. It is also an opportunity to look at our own assistance to those fleeing violence and to identify how we, as a global community, can support refugees.
Around the world, the United States partners with the United Nations and a number of international and non-governmental organizations to assist and shelter refugees. The United States is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance worldwide and last year provided more than $7 billion to provide urgent, life-saving services, including child protection programs, women’s protection and empowerment activities, food, shelter, healthcare services, and access to clean water for millions of displaced and crisis-affected people, including refugees worldwide. This commitment to the world’s most vulnerable individuals is a critical component of U.S. policy.
In supporting vulnerable populations overseas, we provide assistance where it is needed most. We also work to enhance stability in volatile regions – a critical U.S. national security objective. Through this humanitarian leadership, we also continue to emphasize the need for host and donor governments to do their part to address humanitarian crises. A global response, with the increasing financial support of multiple nations, is critical.
Around the world and in the United States, refugees have for many years positively contributed to the communities that welcome them. We applaud those refugee-hosting countries that are making generous and critical contributions in support of refugees, and those countries that recognize that refugees can make positive contributions to their host countries.
It is because of this the U.S. Embassy, through USAID, is partnering with the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association to implement the Migrant and Refugee Human Rights Protection Project in Macedonia.
The project supports the implementation of international human rights law and the country’s National Strategy for Equality and Non-discrimination. Its overall goal is to improve the assistance and services provided to migrants and refugees in Macedonia, and to ensure that their human rights are protected in line with international standards.
I’d like to thank the Center for Crisis Management and Ministry of Labor and Social Policy for their cooperation and support for this project, facilitating program activities in the camps and helping build the capacity of relevant officials in implementing humanitarian law and procedures.
As part of the project, we organized 15 art therapy workshops for 139 refugees and migrants who resided in Macedonia in February and March of this year. By helping refugees to express themselves through art and handicrafts, we offer them the opportunity to show that they are ordinary people living through extraordinary times.
Today, at this Humanitarian Art Bazaar, we can enjoy over 100 artwork pieces and handicrafts created by the migrants and refugees. Some of the creators of these products are with us today and I want to thank them for sharing their art with us.
We can all look forward to a day when the number of refugees fleeing war and trauma is fewer. In the meantime, we can remember our role in a global community and find opportunities to humanize the experience of refugees and to work together to bring some stability, hope, and care into their lives as they seek peace.