US, Others Announce Donor Conference to Aid Rohingya

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and BenarNews staff
Dhaka and Washington
201015-BD-biegun-620.jpg U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun (left) and Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen speak to reporters at the Padma State Guesthouse in Dhaka, Oct. 15, 2020.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury/BenarNews

An international conference is to be held next week to call on countries worldwide to “help provide much needed funding” for supporting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and those who have been displaced by conflict inside their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar, the U.S. State Department announced Thursday.

The virtual donor conference, co-hosted by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will take place on Oct. 22, officials said.

“The conference will aim “to raise urgently needed funds to help vulnerable displaced Rohingya living in and outside of their native Myanmar,” the co-hosts said, according to a news release from the State Department. “The funds raised are also expected to support critical services in host communities throughout South and Southeast Asia.”

They noted that less than half of the U.S. $1 billion requested by the U.N. this year had been raised.

“As the world’s most generous donor, we are a catalyst for the international humanitarian response and call on others to contribute to this cause – both longstanding partners as well as new and aspiring donors,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun was quoted as saying in the press release about next week’s conference.

Biegun was in Dhaka on Thursday where he met with Bangladesh’s foreign minister to discuss challenges faced by the nearly 1 million members of the stateless Rohingya minority who live in sprawling camps in southeastern Cox’s Bazar district.

After meeting with Foreign Minister A.K. Momen, Biegun touched on the upcoming donor conference.

“The announcement that was just made regarding a donor’s conference is going to seek to ensure that sufficient resources are available from the international community to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the refugee population that’s currently here in Bangladesh,” Biegun told reporters. He is scheduled to leave Dhaka on Friday.

Momen praised Biegun for U.S. efforts to support Bangladesh in caring for Rohingya. The population of refugees at the camps in Cox’s Bazar and other areas along Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar fled from cycles of violence in Rakhine state, including about 740,000 who escaped after an August 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military.

“We discussed the Rohingya issue. You know the U.S. has been the greatest supporter of our Rohingya issue since day one,” Momen said.

In March, the U.S. government announced it was awarding $59 million in additional humanitarian aid to Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar, increasing the total assistance to nearly $820 million since the 2017 crackdown.

Biegun and Momen also discussed efforts to repatriate the Rohingya to their homes in Rakhine. While Bangladesh and Myanmar officials agreed in late 2017 to a voluntary repatriation process, all efforts to the return the Rohingya have failed.

“In regard to … the Rohingya refugee population, I think it’s well known that the United States has been quite outspoken and used its political influence as much as possible to influence decisions inside Myanmar regarding the treatment and restoration of rights of these people,” Biegun said.

“We very much agree with the government of Bangladesh that a solution needs to be found to restore the rights of and the return of people who are in the refugee camps here in Bangladesh.”

Momen thanked the U.S. for supporting repatriation efforts.

“They will continue to help us out. And also (they) will try their best as to how these people can go back to their country of origin,” he said.

In announcing the donor conference, Biegun and the others said it would “be an opportunity for the co-hosts to reiterate that any sustainable solution to this crisis must include the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and other displaced people to their homes or to a place of their choosing.”

Conference details

The conference is to run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 (Dhaka time) and will be livestreamed on Funds raised are to go to international organizations and NGOs working with the Rohingya, organizers said.

“Solidarity with the Rohingya people means more than just meeting their basic needs. Refugees, like everyone else, have a right to a life of dignity and the chance to build a safe and stable future,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in the statement announcing the conference.


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