January 29, 2022

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On the Occasion of World Refugee Day

11 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to recognize the courage and the struggles of millions of refugees who have fled their homes due to persecution and conflict. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of those forcibly displaced worldwide rose to nearly 80 million in 2019. The United States reaffirms its commitment to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes for the millions of displaced people around the world. To this end, the U.S. National Security Strategy directs us to continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance and to support displaced people as close to their homes as possible to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Refugee Act, which established the Office of the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs that evolved into the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The Refugee Act was the first comprehensive piece of U.S. legislation designed to address the realities of modern refugees by providing flexible mechanisms to address rapidly shifting refugee situations.

From Venezuela to Syria and Afghanistan, to South Sudan and Burma, the United States is a catalyst for international humanitarian crisis response. It is essential for the international community to work together to be effective in addressing the crises that drive displacement and lead to dire situations. This starts with the responsibility of the governments involved and their regional partners to take steps to end conflict quickly and to create safe conditions for their people. By focusing on ending conflicts and by providing assistance to prevent further displacement, we can help mitigate the destabilizing effects displacement has on affected countries and their neighbors.

The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide, continuing a tradition of generosity. In Fiscal Year 2019, the United States provided more than $9.5 billion, and over the past decade we have provided nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance. This assistance reaches tens of millions of displaced and crisis-affected people worldwide, providing urgent, life-saving support and services, including food, shelter, health care, education, and access to safe drinking water. U.S. support for host countries, provided through contributions to humanitarian organizations, encourages them to continue providing shelter and increasing access to work, education, and public services for those fleeing persecution.

But the United States cannot address these needs alone. We work tirelessly to encourage our partners and allies to share the burden and to ensure limited resources are used in a coordinated and effective manner toward sustainable solutions. Our calls for greater resources from the broadest possible group of donors, including governments and the private sector, are essential to address these urgent and growing needs. We applaud those who are making critical contributions to support refugees throughout the world. We will continue to work with international organizations, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, and refugee-hosting countries to find sustainable solutions to displacement while we simultaneously seek lasting political solutions to the conflicts that drive it.

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    What GAO Found The Department of State (State) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shifted to remote monitoring of their humanitarian assistance awards in response to COVID-19, but USAID documented field-level oversight inconsistently. State and USAID officials reported using technology, such as video conferencing, to communicate with agency staff and with organizations implementing the awards but generally ceased in-person meetings as well as site visits by headquarters-based staff. State used a standardized template to consistently document oversight of two nongovernmental organization (NGO) awards GAO reviewed. However, USAID did not consistently document field-level oversight of five NGO awards GAO reviewed. USAID staff were either unaware of the relevant guidance on field-level oversight or believed it was no longer in effect. Communicating to staff the expectations for documentation would help USAID preserve institutional knowledge and ensure management has information needed to make programming decisions. USAID required implementers using fiscal year 2020 COVID-19 supplemental funds to submit monthly reports, which contributed to lessons learned and informed headquarters staff. In March 2021, USAID reverted to semiannual reporting for new awards but did not fully assess the trade-offs of doing so. Such an assessment could help USAID weigh competing factors, such as increased risks while monitoring remains curtailed by the pandemic versus the burden placed on implementing organizations by more frequent reporting. Organizations implementing State and USAID humanitarian assistance awards adapted to COVID-19 chiefly through low-tech remote solutions and faced implementation and monitoring challenges. These adaptations included (1) increased use of social distancing and personal protective equipment (see figure), (2) teleconferences or video conferences instead of in-person meetings, and (3) increased use of remote tools, such as telephone surveys. Implementers faced related procurement, technology, and logistics challenges, which delayed program implementation. Masked and Socially Distanced Humanitarian Assistance Training in Honduras Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic has created new humanitarian needs and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities around the world. In response to the pandemic, Congress appropriated and State and USAID obligated $908 million in supplemental funding in fiscal year 2020 for international humanitarian assistance activities. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor the federal government's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines how State and USAID adapted their monitoring of humanitarian assistance activities supported by COVID-19 supplemental funding. This report also describes how implementing organizations adapted their projects to the COVID-19 context and the challenges they faced. GAO reviewed State and USAID planning, funding, and guidance documents and interviewed officials; obtained data on all humanitarian assistance awards funded from COVID-19 fiscal year 2020 supplemental appropriations. GAO also reviewed relevant documents for a nongeneralizable sample of 12 awards (seven to NGOs, five to public international organizations), selected on the basis of factors such as geographic representation and type of implementer.
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    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
    In the midst of the global war on terrorism and recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense (DOD) is working to make U.S. forces more agile and expeditionary. This transformation involves a shift from a Cold War era defense posture to a military that can surge quickly to trouble spots around the globe. In order to accomplish this transformation, it is vital for U.S. forces to train as they intend to fight. New advances in technology, coupled with this shift in force posture, mean that DOD needs to continually update and maintain its training ranges. Military training ranges vary in size from a few acres--for small arms training--to over a million acres for large maneuver exercises and weapons testing, as well as broad open ocean areas that provide for offshore training and testing. These ranges face ever increasing limitations and restrictions on land, water, and airspace as residential, commercial, and industrial development continues to expand around and encroach upon once remote military training and testing installations. Section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, dated December 2, 2002, required that the Secretary of Defense report on several items. First, the Secretary of Defense was required to develop a comprehensive plan for using existing authorities available to the Secretary of Defense and the military services to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace--both in the United States and overseas. As part of the preparation of the plan, section 366 required the Secretary of Defense to conduct an assessment of current and future training range requirements and an evaluation of the adequacy of current DOD resources, including virtual and constructive assets, to meet current and future training range requirements. Second, section 366 required the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress, not later than June 30, 2003, on the plans to improve DOD's system to reflect the readiness impact that training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace have on specific units of the military services. Third, section 366 required the Secretary to develop and maintain an inventory that identifies all available operational training ranges, all training range capacities and capabilities, and any training constraints caused by limitations at each training range in fiscal year 2004, and provide an updated inventory to Congress for fiscal years 2005 through 2013. Section 366(d) of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 requires GAO to submit to Congress an evaluation of DOD's report regarding its training range comprehensive plan and its readiness reporting improvements within 90 days of receiving the report from DOD. This report is our fourth review in response to our mandate in section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003. This report discusses (1) the extent to which DOD's 2007 sustainable ranges report and training range inventory address the elements of section 366 that were required to be in DOD's fiscal year 2004 sustainable ranges report and (2) an opportunity for DOD to improve its comprehensive plan within the sustainable ranges report to better address the elements of section 366.Although DOD's 2007 sustainable ranges report and inventory still do not fully address all of the elements of section 366 required for DOD's original fiscal year 2004 report and inventory, DOD has continued to improve them and the current report and inventory represent an improvement over those from previous years. First, in an effort to improve the annual report and inventory, DOD has taken initial steps to provide the results of an assessment of current and future training range requirements and an evaluation of the adequacy of current DOD resources. These assessments also help improve the training range inventory by helping to identify all training capacities and capabilities available at each training range and to identify training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace at each training range. Until better criteria and a more standardized methodology are developed, DOD and the services will not be presenting a consistent and accurate picture of range capabilities and needs, and will therefore be unable to identify shortfalls or gaps in their capabilities or make informed decisions about where to invest sustainment dollars DOD-wide. Second, like previous years' reports, DOD's 2007 report does not provide new recommendations for legislative or regulatory changes to address training constraints, although DOD's original 2004 report was required by section 366 to include any recommendations that the Secretary may have for legislative or regulatory change to address training constraints identified pursuant to section 366. Third, although DOD's readiness reporting system does not yet include training ranges, DOD's 2007 sustainable ranges report describes DOD's plans to improve its reporting system to reflect the readiness impact that training constraints have on the services. DOD officials told us that workshops had been scheduled to develop the system and that it should be initially operational by the end of calendar year 2008. Even with these improvements in the sustainable range report and inventory, DOD has the opportunity to improve its comprehensive plan presented within its sustainable ranges report by including projected funding requirements for implementing planned actions. We asked the services for information about their range sustainment funding, and each service was able to provide us with an estimate of its budget for range sustainment for fiscal year 2008. According to DOD officials, this information was not included in the report because it presents only a partial picture of the money being spent on range sustainment. We believe, however, that even this partial information is important to include in the report because without it, Congress will have difficulty making informed decisions about funding range sustainment activities.
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