I want to thank the United Kingdom for bringing us together and for superb leadership. Thanks also to Sweden for stepping forward to co-sponsor today’s event.
As you’ll hear by video from our Secretary of State John Kerry—the United States fully supports this agenda. We look forward to playing a leading role in the Call to Action going forward and urge other countries to join us.
We’ve heard again and again today just how high the stakes are for women and girls in emergencies—these can be matters of life and death and are always life-changing. We recognize that significant progress has been made over the last several years in strengthening our response to gender-based violence (GBV) during emergencies.
I continue to be struck by what I heard when I met with protection experts from humanitarian organizations right after becoming the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration in Spring 2012. The experts listed recent crises where different excuses were floated for not reacting quickly to address GBV: chaos in post-earthquake Haiti, cultural sensitivities in Pakistan, and security problems in the Dadaab camp in Kenya.
We also hear that “life saving” interventions must take precedence over protection of women and girls. Action to prevent and respond to GBV is often too little, too late. The unacceptable reality is that we are still failing. I fear that we are failing women and girls affected by the Syria crisis right now. And we need to make sure that our commitments today actually make women and girls safer tomorrow, throughout the world.
For our part, the United States is committing new resources to prevent threats to women and girls and ensure that survivors receive appropriate care—not as an afterthought, but as standard practice. In September of this year, Secretary Kerry announced an initial commitment of $10 million as the foundation of our new initiative, Safe from the Start, which will go toward building core capacity of our leading partner organizations to address GBV from the earliest phases of emergencies.
These resources will be used to hire new staff, launch programs to make a difference in the field, and build the evidence base to expand our learning about what works to prevent harm to women and girls. This will require a long-term investment for the United States. This effort builds on U.S. policy initiatives such as the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence Globally.
In addition to our financial and policy commitments, we will be strengthening our own capacity as a government to address these issues through all aspects of our foreign policy and foreign assistance. Finally, we need to hold our own feet to the fire and make sure we follow through on these good interventions on the ground, where it counts.
I’d like to turn the floor over to my colleague Carla Koppell who will share more detail on all these commitments. Thank you again—we are excited to work with all of you to get this right—once and for all.