USA for UNHCR’s Leadership Participation in the 2016 UN General Assembly

September 26, 2016

© UNHCR / Maren Wickwire

USA for UNHCR played a highly visible and transformative role during this years’ UN General Assembly (UNGA) week focused on the global refugee crisis, beginning with an event with High Commissioner Grandi through to a closing roundtable with President Obama and members of the private sector who have made commitments to support the global refugee crisis.

UNGA week officially kicked off on Friday September 16 with the delivery of the #WithRefugees petition. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), delivered the petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Joining the High Commissioner at the ceremony were UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, model and former refugee Alex Wek, UNHCR Supporter Ben Stiller, who lead a recitation of the petition, and swimmer Yusra Mardini from Syria and runner Yiech Pur Biel from South Sudan, both members of the 2016 Refugee Olympic Team, who spoke in support of the petition. Emtithal Mahmoud, 2015 World Slam Poetry Champion read her poem, Boy in the Sand, her ode to Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy found washed ashore in Turkey last year.

“The #WithRefugees petition is about compassion and solidarity and it’s about standing together with people who have left everything behind, except their hopes, dreams and determination,” noted Grandi at the ceremony. The petition gathered more than 1.3 million signatures from supporters around the world.

USA for UNHCR proudly supported the #WithRefugees campaign since its launch in June. A special thanks to the tens of thousands of our donors and supporters who signed the petition and shared the petition on their social media channels.

On Monday September 19, USA for UNHCR partner Airbnb launched the #BelongAnywhere global campaign, which seeks to raise media attention and financial support for refugees around the world. Airbnb is matching donations in support of the campaign up to $1 million – USA for UNHCR is a direct beneficiary of the fundraising campaign.

“We’re so grateful to Airbnb for this creative campaign that leverages the company’s global community to enlist more people to support those who are fleeing war and violence worldwide,” said Anne-Marie Grey, USA for UNHCR CEO and Executive Director.

On Tuesday September 20, USA for UNHCR joined the White House announcement of commitments from more than 50 companies that responded to the President’s Call to Action, which asked U.S. businesses to make new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees residing in countries on the frontlines of the global refugee crisis and in countries of resettlement, such as the United States.

To facilitate private sector commitments in response to the Call to Action, the White House created the Partnership for Refugees, an initiative established through collaboration between the State Department and USA for UNHCR, with significant support from Accenture Federal Services. The President’s remarks can be viewed here.

“Today’s announcement of new corporate commitments –  focused on employment, education and enablement – shows the power of private sector ingenuity, innovation and investments in creating durable solutions to this global crisis,” said Anne-Marie.

Following the Call to Action commitment announcement, Anne-Marie joined President Obama, Vice President Biden other Senior members of the U.S. government, Amal and George Clooney and a number of participating CEOs for a roundtable discussion about mobilizing the private sector to address the refugee crisis worldwide.

Added Anne-Marie: “Beyond the vital role of government, a crisis of this scale requires innovative private sector philanthropic investments and partnerships USA for UNHCR is so honored to have collaborated with the State Department in responding to the President’s Call to Action, enlisting more private sector support that is vital to give refugees the hope they deserve, restore their dignity and help them rebuild their lives so that they once again become productive and active global citizens.”