Remarks With Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie Pitt

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
June 20, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s my enormous pleasure to welcome UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, and I am really pleased to be able to introduce her today on World Refugee Day. Angelina has traveled countless miles throughout the world representing the United States, but more importantly, representing the cause of refugees on a global basis.

And as she well knows and people who are involved with refugees know, we are facing a world with about 65 million refugees today. That is more than at any time in our history. And with conflicts raging in places like Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya – countless conflicts and countless challenges of poverty – there are more people seeking refuge, seeking shelter, seeking a future. The United States is particularly proud that we have been deeply engaged for many, many years in providing that opportunity to people.

And we’re living in a contentious time when some try to make a negative out of being a refugee or somehow turn people who are refugees into threats. But we have just met together with a group of people who are working at the United States State Department, each of them contributing enormously to the work of this department, to the fiber of our country, and most importantly, all of them working with refugees themselves. They are American; they’re as American as anybody; and they have a story to tell about how America keeps faith with people’s dreams and hopes and aspirations.

So I’m very, very grateful to Angelina for her personal leadership, for her commitment to this issue. She’s been working at this for years. This is not a passing fancy for her at all; it is a lifetime commitment. And it’s my pleasure to introduce her as well as to thank her for all that she is doing to help us with this extraordinarily important cause.


MS. JOLIE PITT: Thank you so much. Thank you, Secretary Kerry. As UNHCR special envoy and as an American citizen, I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here and to meet with you today.

As the Secretary said, today is World Refugee Day. If I ask people for anything on this day, it is to take a moment and to truly grasp what a refugee crisis of today’s magnitude means for peace and security of the world. I ask people to understand that with 65 million people displaced by conflict, we are facing a world of wars we cannot ignore or turn our backs on. To do that would be naive, irresponsible, and dangerous.

We face a very clear choice: to continue as we are and see displacement and insecurity grow, or to come together with other nations and find a new approach, one that does not focus solely on aid and resettlement but on solution, stability, and returns.

Today, partly in response to this crisis, we are seeing rising intolerance and xenophobia. But strength lies in mastering and channeling our emotions so that we pursue policies that reduce – not inflame – threats to our security. We need leadership. We need solutions. So that is my ask and my focus today, and I look forward to speaking with you. My hope is that we can use the months before the very welcome summit on refugees hosted by President Obama in September to make progress and not to wait for that to act.

So I know Secretary Kerry is working tirelessly on these issues. I am very grateful for all that you do, all that you continue to do, all you’ve done, and I am very grateful that you would shine a light on this today and allow me to be here and speak. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you so much. And no questions? All right, thank you all very much. We appreciate it. Thanks.