With the increasing number of vulnerable communities worldwide, Eric Schwartz, assistant secretary for the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, is pushing for the expansion of protection services to include combating gender-based violence, promoting freedom of movement, and securing land rights and rights related to personal status, on top of addressing the needs of violence victims.
Expanding the concept of protection, Schwartz stressed, needs to be accompanied by concrete programs. The U.S. will considerably scale up its funding for programs that deal with violence against women, as well as economic needs of women in conflict-torn areas, according to Schwartz.
“Rhetoric about a broadened protection focus must be matched by reality,” he said during the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Refugee Act.
The U.S. official is also calling for greater collaboration between the U.S., other governments and international organizations to effectively respond to the needs of vulnerable communities.
“It is clear that our bilateral influence has its limits,” Schwartz said. “On more occasions than I’d care to admit, we have been less than successful in prevailing upon governments to respect or strengthen protection of refugees or displaced persons on their territories.”
Better coordination between and among governments and international organizations can also help strengthen the broader architecture for protection and humanitarian response, he said.
“Many UN policies – and, therefore, international efforts endorsed by dozens of governments – relating to refugee resettlement, combating gender based violence, healthcare for vulnerable populations, and on and on, all came out of engagement between our Bureau, our UN partners and other donor states. The world has benefited from these efforts, which will certainly continue,” Schwartz said.