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White House Plans Leaders' Meeting on Refugees on Sidelines of UNGA

WASHINGTON — The White House said today that President Obama will host a summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September to talk about the issue of refugees.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement today that UN Ambassador Samantha Power met with the co-host nations — Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden — to lay the groundwork for the meeting.

“With 20 million refugees around the world, a comprehensive, collective international effort to strengthen refugee protection and assistance is more critical than ever,” Rice said. “The co-hosts for the summit all recognize that the international community must do more to protect and assist refugees.  Humanitarian appeals are at record levels, yet are underfunded. Massive numbers of refugees are turning to dangerous and illegal smuggling networks in search of safety; and millions more face long-term dependency in first asylum countries, without access to lawful employment and education.”

“In the lead up to the UNGA, the co-hosts and other UN Member States that join this effort will make concrete commitments to address these challenges, and all new and significant commitments made during 2016 will be recognized at the Leaders’ Summit.”

Rice said the U.S. intends to seek at the summit “at least a 30 percent increase in financing for global appeals and international humanitarian organizations; to double the global number of resettled refugees and those afforded other legal channels of admission; and to increase the number of refugees worldwide in school by one million, and the number of refugees granted the legal right to work by one million.”

“Reaching these ambitious objectives will be challenging; yet, the level of need demands no less,” she continued. “The United States has long been a humanitarian leader. During this administration, we continue to strive to do more and encourage other countries to do the same.”

“The Leaders’ Summit will further that leadership and address a level of displacement the world has not witnessed since World War II. This week’s meeting with key partners committed to meeting these objectives is another key step in efforts to strengthen the international response and expand opportunities for refugees worldwide.”

The Syrian war alone has created at least 4.8 million refugees, roughly half of those children. About 10 percent of those have fled to Europe while the rest remain in the Middle East.

President Obama touted his administration’s aid to Syria on Thursday in his commencement address at the Air Force Academy, while defending the White House’s actions during the five-year conflict.

“As a father, I look at Syria’s children and I see my own. That’s why we’ve said the dictator, Assad, must go and why we support a moderate Syrian opposition. And it’s why America provides more humanitarian aid to the Syrian people than any other nation,” Obama said.

“But suggestions for deeper U.S. military involvement in a conflict like the Syrian civil war have to be fully thought through, rigorously examined with an honest assessment of the risks and tradeoffs… when we invest in the development that promotes education and opportunity around the globe, it can make conflicts and military interventions less likely later.”