More than 70 years ago, members of the United Nations General Assembly gathered to adopt the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention and its 1967 Protocol outline the rights of, and protections for, refugees—the right to basic standards of treatment and, critically, protection against return to persecution. A core tenet of refugee protection embedded in these instruments is non-discrimination—including that states should not restrict access to asylum on the basis of race, religion, or country of origin.
On June 20, 2001, the world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Convention by celebrating World Refugee Day for the first time to honor and raise awareness to the millions of refugees and displaced persons still searching for safety and stability.
This year, World Refugee Day comes on the heels of a grim milestone: the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide has climbed above 100 million, or nearly one percent of the global population. A key driver of this stark rise is Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine—a war that has, in just over a hundred days, created the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The displaced include children separated from their parents at the border, mothers carrying their toddlers away from mortar fire, and families missing brothers, fathers, and husbands who stayed behind to defend their homes. Those fleeing Ukraine join the ranks of the tens of millions of people who have fled conflict, climate change, and persecution around the world—from the Middle East to East Africa, Asia to Latin America—often without the warm and deserving embrace that many Ukrainian refugees have received. No person or population in need is more worthy of assistance than another, and we cannot lose sight of all those displaced worldwide who require assistance.
The United States strives to protect and promote the principles set forth in the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol—that whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whenever they are forced to flee, every person should be given safe haven from persecution. USAID is the largest provider of emergency food assistance to displaced peoples around the world, as well as to the host countries and communities that support them. We are deeply committed to treating every person, regardless of identity or background, with dignity and compassion.
On this World Refugee Day, as hundreds of thousands continue to flee persecution around the world, climate shocks exacerbate vulnerability, and COVID-19 limits access to vital resources, we extend our hands to all the displaced peoples seeking aid around the world.