Thank you Minister Ljubic. I am very honored to be here today. It’s a true pleasure to participate in this Donor’s Conference. We are here to celebrate a genuine achievement on the part of Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. Let me offer you my congratulations.
This collaborative initiative represents four countries showing significant political will to overcome difficult histories and prioritize the needs of human beings. The Regional Housing Program responds to the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable, of those who have already suffered too much. It not only reaffirms the right to a voluntary and durable solution, including return, but also provides the concrete assistance necessary to make it a reality. This collective effort to resolve the final vestiges of displacement will help 74,000 individuals close a very painful chapter of their past and re-start their lives.
We strongly support UNHCR’s strategy to address protracted situations worldwide, in particular their efforts on the Balkans refugee crisis. We have made it one of our own priorities as well. I am pleased that the United States is committed to the success of the Regional Housing Program; we intend to remain committed to its success throughout the life of the program. In additional to our financial contributions, we would like to bring selected local officials from the partner countries to the United States to see the best practices used by the United States Refugee Admissions Program. Moving into a new home is only the first step for successful reintegration.
We recognize that, for many, this program will not resolve all issues resulting from their forced displacement. Today’s Conference is the culmination of many years of hard work and difficult compromise. But at the same time, it marks an abiding commitment and continuing efforts. We are prepared to see this process through. And we remain committed to working with the countries of the region to resolve the remaining cases of refugees and displaced persons.
Today we celebrate a landmark achievement for humanitarian diplomacy and sustained effort by the four governments involved, with the partnership of the UNHCR, the EU, the OSCE, the Council of Europe Development Bank, and others.