Senate Foreign Relations Cmte Hearing on Syria and Humanitarian Aid May 1 2019



committee will come to order thank you for our guests being here today to testify this is a serious and an important matter that we're going to take up this morning and before we get started here though I'd like to take a moment to remember our friend and colleague a former chairman of this committee Senator Dick Lugar who passed away just a few days ago dick was a widely respected Senator in his home state of Indiana as he was around the globe he was a lifelong public servant he exemplified the ideals that many of us strive for every day I was fortunate to serve alongside of him from my very first days in this committee and I was able to benefit from his wisdom at the top of the long list of his accomplishments in his work on his is his work on nuclear non-proliferation in former Soviet countries our world is safer today because of his signature legislation which was no easy feat on behalf of all of us on the committee I send my condolences to the two senator Lugar's wife and his family and the many people who like us were blessed to know and work with him he was a true statesman and will always be remembered as such Thank You dick for your service turning to the topic at hand today March tragically marked the eighth anniversary of a brutal civil conflict in Syria a war characterized by the indiscriminate deployment of barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians mass murder and forced displacement targeted attacks against medical and humanitarian workers and the wholesale destruction of critical infrastructure directed by the Drude by the brutal dictator Bashar al-assad in his Russian and Iranian enablers the humanitarian and economic toll has been devastating more than half a million people have been killed over 13 million Syrians require urgent life-saving assistance millions of men women and children have been forced from their homes including 5.7 million refugees and nearly three million Syrian children including 800 and child refugees are out of school and at least 10,000 of whom are unaccompanied and all of whom are now vulnerable to trafficking exploitation and recruitment by armed groups which we have all seen over the years notably Assad's atrocities have also given rise to dangerous extremist groups including Isis which have capitalized on the chaos unleashed further death and destruction committed acts of genocide they have manipulated Aid and further destabilized an already fragile region these are people not just as – not just statistics and they deserve better these are men and women with families and children the overwhelming majority of whom have been dragged into a conflict not of their own making yet are forced to pay the ultimate price unfortunately there is no easy path forward for them a particular concern is the current situation in Rick Bonn along the Syrian Jordanian border the Rooke bond camp houses 36,000 Syrians mostly women and children in recent weeks the Assad regime and its Russian backers have blocked access and repeatedly refused requests by the UN to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance the last un aid delivery was in February and supplies of food and basic necessities have been exhausted with Ramadan fast approaching I urged the Assad regime and its Russian backers to grant access to Rick bond and Beyond in line with UN Security Council resolution to 449 thereby alleviating wide-scale humanitarian suffering the regional implications of this crisis cannot be underestimated the unrelenting flow of refugees into Turkey Lebanon and Jordan was over well has overwhelmed economic and security institutions and poses the risk of additional regional instability and while it is easy to focus on conditions in the camps it is important to note that roughly 90 percent of Syrian refugees live among hosting communities outside of camps refugees living in urban settings without access to legal employment or other assets face extreme difficulty in finding shelter and basic necessities moreover they are often difficult to identify and therefore difficult to assist by agencies that wish to do so this situation is simply not sustainable it is in the US interest to help Syrian refugees realize their desire for safe and voluntary returns to their homes as quickly as possible all of this has resulted in the bill that would authorize sanctions against the Assad regime in its backers and hold these parties accountable for their human rights abuses and ongoing atrocities this bill the Caesar Syria civilian Protection Act I've worked on with ranking member Menendez and others and both of us indeed many of us want this bill to be passed as soon as possible it was included in s-1 the first bill passed by this Congress but has become high centered over in the house as a result the Caesar bill will be taken up soon at a business meeting of this committee the Syrian people need our help and we should not delay this legislation any longer the United States is a single largest humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis providing 9.5 billion since the beginning of the conflict now the questions are how do we maintain the Momentum's of support for these populations and what programs provide a path to durable solutions for the Syrian people such solutions will pass will both address the grievances that perpetuated the conflict and prevent sowing the seeds of future conflict with Syria's complex and deadly war entering its ninth year the United States and other partners continue to work to ameliorate humanitarian conditions while seeking a more permanent durable solution to the crisis we remain committed to doing what we can to save lives while acknowledging that humanitarian assistance is just a band-aid a political solution is long overdue the United States stands with the Syrian people we're happy to have this hearing today and we're happy to have the distinguished guests that we have to talk about it with us here today with that yield to mr. to senator menendez Thank You mr. chairman let me first join you in honoring the memory of the late Senator Dick Lugar I was privileged to join the committee while he was I believe the chairman of the time he was the ultimate statesman at a time in which there is so much lack of bipartisanship he ran this committee with the comedy with the courtesy with a respect for all views that we should emulate in our work today and the time at which Russia is violating the INF treaty and potentially leading us into a new nuclear arms race it was dick Lugar's work with Sam Nunn who made a difference in the world in terms of reeling us back from that arms race and creating a safer more secure world for generations to come and so I am better off having known to Kluger I am reminded of his work and I try to emulate some of what he does in the work that we do every day I want to thank you mr. chairman for holding this hearing to highlight devastating ongoing human suffering inside of Syria for more than eight years the Assad regime has waged an unrelenting war of brutality against the people of Syria forcing millions to flee their homes appending families and generations to come destroying a once beautiful country and enabling terrorists and nefarious actors to gain stronger foot holes across the region I had hope mr. chairman that we could hear from some Syrians directly today but instead let me at least acknowledge among us today members of the inspiring white helmets who to this day continue to risk their lives to save others and to tell the story of Assad's murderous campaign right Salah is in town to receive a well deserved award from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and I asked that a statement from the group be submitted for the record and I thank them for being here today with us while we may talk of the defeat of the Caliphate of Isis violence continues to rage and syria's countryside and villages capitalizing on an incoherent policy from the United States and fatigued from the international community the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian facilitators of war crimes killed more than a hundred people in February in Ely alone nearly half of them were children facing Assad's barrel bombs and starvation campaign as well as horrific violence from terrorist organizations some 6.2 million are displaced from their homes within the country many lacking access to adequate food and basic health care more than 2 million children are out of school risking a lost generation 5 million have fled to neighboring Jordan Lebanon Turkey and Iraq who have shown an extraordinary openness the impacts of this crisis however are not confined to the region nobody can forget the devastating images of dead Syrian children washing up on the shores of Greece nor the hundreds who had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean while some governments have shown extraordinary compassion in welcoming the influx of refugees this crisis has also fuelled existing xenophobic nationalistic voices seeking to upend the very foundational values and institutions that shape the past half century and as Syrians bear the burden the Kremlin wins on two fronts the refugee crisis contributes to the political splintering of Europe and it is able to maintain a foothold in the Middle East to its war criminal patron in Damascus during the past eight years of war the international community has failed Syria failed to resolve the conflict protect civilians from gross violations of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of armed conflict and ensure durable solutions for refugees instead of United States historical leadership in response to this kind of suffering in 2018 president Trump froze and then terminated stabilization assistance in northeastern Syria and announced withdrawal of US troops by tweet shocking both our local partners and deployed allies since then erratic policy pronouncements have created uncertainty about US strategy timeline intentions and reliability rather than providing resources to countries hosting Syrian refugee president Chavez proposed budget an unprecedented cut of over 30% in humanitarian aid is something that luckily Congress rejected but the proposal was reckless dangerous and a rejection of American values and global leadership there are however steps we can take to address this crisis at a minimum the administration should work to ensure your manatorian access to men women and children in need and to secure adequate funding for the humanitarian response I'm glad to hear in your comments mr. chairman that we will move the Cesar civilian Syria civilian protection act soon as a standalone bill I know that Democrats stand ready to cast a vote for the bill and send it directly to the President's desk as it has already passed the House of Representatives and here at home we must lead by example for decades the US government was both an offer and a champion of refugee protection principles globally sadly the administration has slammed the door on Syrian refugees in 2016 of the five million around the world the United States welcomed over twelve thousand five hundred and eighty seven of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees women children the sick and the elderly in 2018 the Trump administration barred the door admitting just 62 Syrian refugees 62 it appears the administration is waging a deliberate campaign to send a message that the United States is no longer that shining beacon for those fleeing oppression seeking asylum and a better life the United States has an ability to be a force for good and restore international standing we must stand by our partners who have fought alongside us we must push back against those who would seek to exploit a vacuum of leadership and threaten our interests and doing that requires sustained support for the people of Syria and our allies we thank our witnesses for the work that they have been doing for their continued efforts to both expose the devastating crisis and marshal support and we look forward to your testimony thank you senator Menendez I do want to note that we have the two representative white helmets here today there their network of over 3,000 people have saved almost a hundred thousand lives and it's to be noted and greatly appreciated their courageous work on the ground in Syria well being targeted by Assad in his Russian backers is to community thank you gentlemen now we're gonna turn to our witnesses and I want to start with mr. Ben Stiller who was an actor director producer and writer with a career spanning over 30 years mr. Stiller is also a committed advocate and humanitarian supporting the work of UNHCR the United Nations refugee agency since 2016 mr. stellar was appointed goodwill ambassador in 2018 and has traveled around the world to meet with refugees mr. Stiller 100 here for you thank you it's great to be here and personally I watch you all on television all the time you all look much taller in person Hey we watch you at the movies Thank You chairman rice ranking member Menendez and members of the committee I am pleased to be here today in my capacity as a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR the UN refugee agency did two-disc excuse me to discuss the ongoing needs of Syrian refugees and their host communities as you've noted last month saw the eighth anniversary of the Syrian conflict in 2016 deciding that I didn't want to just keep watching the news at the conflict but that I wanted to do something I called UNHCR which is mandated to care for refugees worldwide since then I've had the opportunity to travel with them to meet Syrian refugees in Jordan in Berlin and recently in Lebanon I've also traveled to Guatemala to meet individuals fleeing horrific violence in our own hemisphere in my time with UNHCR I've been incredibly impressed by their work with a staff of nearly 17,000 90 percent 90 percent of whom are located in the field UNHCR works tirelessly to assist the world most vulnerable since the start of the Syrian crisis this committee has remained steadfast in its commitment to the protection and assistance of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons as well as to the countries hosting these refugees we thank you for that leadership and support as an American I'm also proud that the United States continues to be UNHCR's largest donor and that our State Department remains a steadfast partner in many parts of the world the term refugee has unfortunately become politicized despite the fact that refugees are real people with real stories stories that are some of the most frightening and traumatic I've heard especially as a father I've tried to imagine how I would feel if caught in the middle of conflict and unable to protect my children if my son was at risk of forced recruitment or my daughter at risk of unimaginable violence honestly for me it's not something I want to think about if any of us were to take a moment to really consider this we would have a tiny sense of what everyday life is like for millions of people around the world getting a chance to meet some of these people and hear their stories firsthand has been a privilege immediately it becomes clear what we all have in common though we come from different cultures and totally different worlds we all want the same things to provide a good environment for our kids to grow up and to laugh and share experiences with family and friends to see our children grow up and achieve their dreams these are things we all want no matter who or where we are and every time I leave and say goodbye I'm aware that but for being born in a different country it could well be me and not them sitting in a small cold makeshift shelter and not being able to do any of these things these people have lost everything this reality was all too clear last month when I was in Lebanon and I had the opportunity to meet a young Syrian family banana her husband Riyad and their four beautiful children they've lived in Lebanon as refugees for eight years now and have desperately struggled constantly moving and constantly looking for work riot is resorted to trying to sell his kidney on Facebook and last year when banana was pregnant with her youngest child a friend suggested she sell baby to help make ends meet banana didn't do this but the suggestion should sheds light on the family's desperate circumstances their children including amazing eight-year-old twins Yasin a boy and Rosana girl these these two kids were very special and I was very affected by Yuans courage he just a very sweet boy he overheard his parents talking about their struggles and he offered to help by selling vegetables on the street for income for the family and he's this very little little kid and they his parents didn't want him to work but he insisted telling them that it was better than begging and his father I had explained that Ghassan is an excellent salesman and so I asked him I said what makes you such a good salesman and he said he's good at selling because he's so cute and while its response was funny and it made me smile the fact that he's working as a young child missing out on school and often going to bed hungry is a reality that's all too common for refugee children and this family receives cash and assistance food assistance through UNHCR but it just isn't enough for them the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees have always been and still remained in the countries bordering their homeland and while these are mostly middle-income countries the sheer size of the refugee population and the fragile nature of the root of the region's economic and political situation puts an enormous strain on the hosting countries the majority of Syrian refugees want to go home one day but most don't believe that such return is possible right now they fear for the security of their families as well as the prospect of military conscription scription lack of documents and lack of basic services or just for their livelihoods there in Lebanon I heard these exact concerns firsthand UNHCR is working with partners to address these obstacles when the time is right UNHCR will be there to support organised large-scale repatriation efforts as it has done in many parts of the world some self-organized returns are already happening these families have made a highly personal decision to go home and UNHCR respects and supports that decision UNHCR as president points of departure in host countries to ensure that we're terns are voluntary and to provide advice on documentation and other key issues but in order to fully assist those who returned in to monitor conditions UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies need unhindered access to areas of return inside Syria while access is slowly improving it is far from being widespread or systemic because it's clear that large-scale return will take time we should expect a significant Syrian refugee population outside of Syria for the foreseeable future in the meantime Syrian refugees have told us what they need and we should listen to them they need education for their children and the ability to work and provide for their families they don't want to be dependent on aid and to sit idly for years refugees have the potential to contribute to the economic and socio-cultural lives of their new communities whether those communities are in neighboring host countries in resettlement countries are ultimately back in their home countries where they can help to rebuild after years of conflict we therefore need to provide the host countries with long-term structural support we need to help them ensure that their health services education systems and livelihood opportunities are available to refugees and also that the needs of their own citizens are addressed so that both groups are able to thrive done smartly humanitarian aid and development aid not only in the Middle East but in Africa Central America and elsewhere can help address root causes in countries of origin provided needed support to transit and destination countries and help stabilize fragile regions of the world the United States has been the most generous donor to many humanitarian crises including the serious situation and I urge you to maintain this generosity eight years into the crisis we must not look away we can not let Syrian families go deeper into destitution and cannot let their children be part of a lost generation we need to ensure these families can live in dignity and look to the future with hope we need to ensure that these kids like my kids and your kids can have a childhood and achieve their dreams ultimately we need to help create the conditions that will allow the majority of Syrian refugees to return home when the time is right as they just so desperately want to do thank you Thank You mr. Stiller we appreciate your testimony in their garden thank you for your commitment to this cause next we're going to turn to the right honourable David Milliband mr. Milliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee where he oversees the agency's humanitarian relief Highbury operations in more than 40 War afflicted for war affected countries from 2000 2010 from 2007 to 2010 he was the seventh 74th Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom driving advancements in human rights and represented representing the United Kingdom throughout the world thank you for being with us today mr. Brandon the floor is yours thank you very much chairman rich senator menendez distinguished senators thank you all for your leadership at this critical time in International Affairs I want to particularly applaud your determination to hold this hearing to look at the humanitarian consequences of the war in Syria because our experience of the last eight years is that far too often the danger that untended humanitarian crisis leads to political instability is not sufficiently appreciated and the willingness of this committee to do so it seems to me to be very important I'm conscious of the need to get on to the questions and so I won't repeat things that others have said but let me make a few introductory remarks I had the privilege of testifying before this committee in 2015 and in 2017 when the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict was a major news story today Syria is mainly out of the news but the suffering of well over half of the Syrian population the population numbered about 25 million in 2011 well over half have been affected by the war the suffer at their suffering has not abated in the last 24 hours bombing raids in the northwest of Syria by the government of Syria and Russian forces have caused death and destruction I got in touch with our team on the ground this morning they reported to me that today they've already been 50 air raids and attacks we know that yesterday there were at least 20 aerial attacks including or and in addition 22 using barrel bombs our evidence is that three and a half thousand have been displaced even in the last 36 hours I want to pay tribute to Ben Stiller and our partners at UNHCR but I also want to recognize the over 2000 International Rescue Committee staff on the ground in Syria Jordan Lebanon in Iraq in 2018 in significant part thanks to the aid that America was willing to provide we were able to offer emergency aid and long-term services to one and a quarter million uprooted Syrians and their hosts in neighboring states my testimony my written testimony focuses on for humanitarian priorities first the war that is continuing in two large chunks of Syrian territory in the northwest and in the Northeast you know well that the politics and the military balance in both areas is complex but over four million people live in those areas cross-border aid keeps them alive but the State Department yesterday described the situation of these people as dire my written testimony gives details including of those who used to live in Babu's under Isis rule and are now in the al Hall camp where we are working it is a high priority to prevent humanitarian meltdown as the government of Syria and their Russian and Iranian allies seek to retake ground in the northwest and northeast of the country second as all the speakers have so far said the eight years of war have taken their toll on the refugees in neighboring states for too many of these people life is a miserable existence poverty early marriage inadequate health and education are the norm the host countries have their own challenges and are delivering a global public good in providing sanctuary to these people they need support not lip service to be able to continue to do so third we hear from refugees that they are scared to return to Syria notably scared of conscription into the Assad army and of persecution but also scared about the destruction that has been wrought on their homes and businesses the primacy of the multilateral un-led diplomatic process has been to a large extent displaced in the last three years by a Russia Iran Turkey troika however a sustainable peace can only be built with full international as well as national engagement and that takes sustained diplomatic muscle fourth the most vulnerable refugees abused women victims of torture those with medical conditions depend for their future on resettlement to third countries a senator menendez said the US has historically led the way he rightly drew attention to the fact that in fiscal year 16 only 62 Syrians were allowed into the country the figure for this fiscal year so far is 250 I want to draw attention to the Fang that albeit with reduced numbers the administration has committed to admit about 9,000 refugees for resettlement from the middle-east alone but so far nearly seven months into the fiscal year they have achieved less than seven percent of that regional target and it seems to me worthy of great attention to make sure that they do actually hit their own target in the course of the rest of this fiscal yeah mr. chairman Syria over the last eight years has become a poster child for what I call an age of impunity when the laws of war are considered optional civilians are fair game aid workers are seen as unfortunate collateral and diplomacy is toothless I thank you and the members of the United States Senate for the opportunity to provide the International Rescue Committee perspective on this defining humanitarian challenge I look forward to addressing your conversations or your questions and to an important conversation thank you very much indeed thank you very much mr. brand for your testimony and also thank you for your commitment to this cause we're gonna do a five minute round I'm gonna start with a single question to mr. Milliband if you would USA IDs Office of the Inspector General is charged with rooting out waste fraud and abuse and u.s. foreign assistance according to the Inspector General it appears even life-saving humanitarian assistance to Syrians is not immune to corruption I think the corruption issue around the world is largely unknown to Americans but it is ubiquitous as we all know that that work around the world could you please discuss for a minute why it's so important to institute and enforce zero-tolerance policies when it comes to corruption in humanitarian assistance thanks very much mr. Chen I'm glad you've raised that I think there are three reasons that I would sign it the first is it's absolutely vital to maintain the confidence of taxpayers that their international aid is going to the people who need not being diverted to people who want to profit from it and I know from my own experience in political life that it's absolutely essential to ensure the principles of value for money of cost-effectiveness as well as cost efficiency are built in from the beginning in the way programs are organized and delivered secondly I'm a very strong believer that it's important to have a culture of zero tolerance because that means you are preventing fraud as well as taking defensive measures to investigate and tackle it we for ourselves but I know that other NGOs do the same do extensive risk analysis to make sure that we are working in ways that protect taxpayers money we are vigilant in following through where aid reaches and perhaps of most interest of the committee we use the views of beneficiaries themselves as an early warning system when things are going wrong was of course the first people to know that the aid isn't going where it needs to is from people who are meant to be getting it that seems to me to be essential the third element of this that I think is very important indeed is obviously to ensure that the NGO community with the multilateral agencies and the donors work in an efficient and effective way to tackle that fraud and abuse one element of this is that NGOs have to fund this for themselves we don't really get funded by our multilateral donors to be able to do this and I can speak to my own organization we're now having to invest significant sums of money that we raise ourselves to ensure that we meet the highest standards always vigilant in our recruitment in our practices we're able to meet the highest standards thank you so much I appreciate that answer Sarah Menendez thank you both for your testimony and your commitment mr. Milliband you presents a disturbing rather gloomy picture one in which not only do I believe we have an up a situation where we can lose a generation of Syrians but we will by ourselves in the international community a generation of problems problems that will go to unsettling what's happening in Europe problem that lead to people who are despaired who will then be turned and proselytized to the fights that we are presently having against terrorism this calls for our response not only in a humanitarian context but in our own national interest and in our own national security interest let me ask you the international community sends much of its humanitarian aid from turkey and other frontline states to vulnerable citizens inside Syria last year the UN Security Council authorized only a one-year extension of cross-border aid deliveries to Syria if humanitarian organizations lose cross-border access and are only able to program for Damascus how is that going to affect the Syrian humanitarian response thanks very much for the question I think the most chilling statistic that I saw in preparing for this hearing was that when it comes to cross line aid that means aid that's going from a government of Syria controlled part of the country into a rebel-held part of the country only 3% of aid agencies applications to do that cross line aid are accepted that gives you an indication of the priority for cross-border aid that's going from Turkey or from Iraq or from Jordan to reach people in need the UN figures are that about three million people depend on that cross-border aid and we know from our own staff who are in areas that were previously under rebel held control where we were delivering cross-border aid I'm thinking particularly about the south west of the country Daraa where the Syrian civil war started and where we were the main healthcare provider now that the Syrian government has taken over those services have been lost and so you're immediately seeing that for the people in the northwest and the northeast of the country still in rebel-held areas cross-border aid is literally a lifeline a three million people in total depend on cross-border aid and they depend on a multilateral coordination mechanism through the United Nations there's a Syria response plan and a regional response plan covering the neighbors that's delivered in a coordinated and organized away–so cross-border aid is a lifeline and obviously in the absence of cross-border aid it increases the Assad regime's ability to leverage assistance only to the areas who are supporters of the regime reside is that a fair statement yes I think that the experience in Goethe as well as in South West and there are bears that out let me ask you what message does the administration's slashing of refugee admissions to 30,000 this year sent to countries such as Jordan Lebanon Turkey who already hosting millions of Syrian refugees I worry that when we lead by example we can get other countries and urge other countries to perform their fair share but when we fail to do so we lose the ability to advocate for others to do so and in the case of Syrian refugees they are the most vetted of anyone who comes to the United States they go through the most vigorous background checks of anyone who comes to the United States and we take only among the most vulnerable women children those who are highly infirmed and so it seems to me that we need to be the leader in order to get other nations in the world to continue to join in the responsibility what do you think is the effect of that I think the best way of asking that is to say the last time I was in Jordan I was told by a very senior member of the Jordanian government that there was a very clear message which is that they were they felt like they were quote-unquote on their own and that is the danger that I see in this we know that in 2016 when the then administration raised the number of refugees who were being allowed to come into the country other countries around the world increased their refugee resettlement slots by about 30 percent and so you saw for the first time an uptick in the number of refugee resettlement slots around the world the parallel or the concomitant is that when the US as the global leader in refugee resettlement reduces its numbers that also acts as a disincentive around the world there's a final point I just want to make I think you're absolutely right to stress the need for effective security vetting I've been in this job for five years and I'm the first to say we want there to be effective security vetting of everyone into the country you're right that refugee is tougher to arrive in the United States as a refugee than through any other route the administration perfectly within its rights when it came in said it wanted to review the vetting system and it now has a vetting system that it says is up to scratch and so I think in those circumstances there is no reason why the most vulnerable shouldn't be allowed in in numbers that are on a par with the kind of global scale of the problem that we face thank you very much Sarah Paul thank you both for your work and trying to help these this terrible humanitarian disaster I think when we look at it it's easy just to talk about what we should do to help the refugees but we also should think about what caused this to begin with worldwide it's either a natural disaster you know lack of food lack of water or warm we're often than not it's both both war and you know naturally they're difficult land harvest crops from but if we don't understand that war causes refugee crisis and war causes humanitarian crisis we're not getting anywhere and it really doesn't need to be a discussion of how do we get here to me there's a certain degree of irony that we've we and our allies and Qatar and Saudi Arabia and UAE sent tons thousands of tons of weapons into Syria and then after the the aftermath of all of these weapons coming together in this clash of civil war now that we're going to be asked to pay for the humanitarian disaster as well maybe we should try to have you know less involvement in the civil wars less escalation of these civil wars Isis we had to go back in and fight Isis where did Isis come from the chaos of this civil war you know terrorism breeds in chaos and so maybe we really need to rethink when we get involved in these civil wars and whether our involvement is is good or bad people said well we wouldn't have gotten involved Assad would have won the war yeah part of wouldn't were in the first six months would there have been oppression yes there would have been oppression but do you think that's worse somehow than the millions of people that are displaced and the hundreds of thousands of people have been killed of this and these are things we should think through my question to mr. Stiller is you said that you require in order to meet the humanitarian needs you require unhindered access do you think more sanctions on Syria will lead to less hindered access or do you think more sanctions might actually lead to more hindered access to develop humanitarian aid I won't venture to speculate on sanctions in my role as a witness to the humanitarian plight that I've seen for UNHCR I think it's an obviously incredibly complicated political situation and what I would speak to the UNHCR and into what International Rescue Committee is doing is it's about figuring out the best way to have access within Syria to allow a path for these people to go home to have a safe place for them to go back home so it's a very complicated issue I don't do it for a living but I would say that it's when you see the face of it in person and I agree with you these root causes have to be addressed I think that's the key but when you see the face of it in person and what's going on there now I think it's it's just very important that we do everything we can to help yeah and I think the thing is is that some see sanctions is war by another name it's a softer form of war but it's the war goes on it's not acknowledging that basically the war is over and then somehow the tide is going to change and Assad will be defeated by sanctions now I don't think he will be defeated by sanctions I think the humanitarian crisis continues and actually probably grows from not sending aid in and putting sanctions on people who would send aid in so I think we really do need to rethink this sanctions is not going to change the outcome of the war in there but I think it will change the ability for the country to recover you know I'm no fan of Assad I'm not glad that he won the war but the war is largely over there still is pockets of resistance in different places but the war is largely over and if we want to correct the humanitarian crisis forbidding trade with Syria is probably not a good way embargoes lead to starvation you know there was an embargo on Japan before the war embargoes on Germany they didn't prevent the war they actually may have brought the war on as well so I think we ought to rethink what we're doing as far as how we treat this there's one thing to give money and to feed people and that's honorable but it's another to continue the war and think that somehow we're gonna change the outcome that's all I have thanks Thank You senator senator Cardin well let me thank first both of our witnesses mr. Stiller you're a face that can get significant support in this country and around the world on these issues so I thank you for taking your time for this extremely important humanitarian need and mr. Miller brand your reputation and your leadership has been indispensable let me just respond very quickly to Senator Paul for the people Syria whether you call it a war or not there's not peace the circumstances on the ground are extremely dangerous for the population in Syria and we can talk about all the different problems we have including a final resolution for a government that represents all the people of Syria which is desperately needed we can also talk about the need for access for humanitarian assistance which is what this hearing is about and how we deal with refugees but yesterday I attended or Montee I attended the meeting of the u.s. Holocaust Memorial and Museum and white helmets we're honored the night before and we congratulate you it's incredible inspiration to all of us the work that you do but there's a exhibit there on Syria the eight years of atrocities and I encourage as many of our colleagues to see that exhibit as as they can because what the museum is about is never again it's a memorial to the victims but it's also our commitment of never again and we're seeing it over and over again so mr. Miller Brandon you mentioned the point your final summary was pretty sobering and I think you'll find many of us that agree with you the failures in so many different areas but let me just mention one of the issues you mentioned impunity in Syria if it's never again those who have committed these atrocities have to be held accountable we included a working with senator Rubio legislation on what they were dealing with the Syrian war crimes accountability it's the law of our land now the this administration has defunded that effort in the budget but if we don't hold accountable those who commit atrocities we're going to see this movie again and we've got to take steps to make sure that doesn't happen and I noticed hearing is focused on the humanitarian needs but I would just urge us all to recognize that we have a responsibility to humanity that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable I want to drill down a little bit on the point to Senator Menendez mentioned about US leadership because US leadership is so vitally important and you had a chance to comment in regards to the Syrian refugee numbers here in the United States but it goes beyond that take a look at the administration's budgets on humanitarian aid and cutting aid and so many of those areas look at our immigration policies generally look at the rise globally of nationalism anti migrants so that when we look at the politics within the region of Syria it's becoming more and more challenging for the neighboring countries to accept and maintain their commitment to refugees because of the politics global politics of refugees so mr. Milich green items would give you another opportunity this committee has historically taken a very strong position for the u.s. leadership on dealing with vulnerable populations and we are concerned that the u.s. leadership is not where it needs to be today as we asked other countries to do things and keep keeping borders open with Syria and maintain refugee camps and allow Amman interion Aid which is a real burden to their own political stability in their own country where we need to be the the Western powers to show by example yes the refugee numbers are critically important and our numbers to hit that we to be so far behind a very very modest number when you look at the numbers in the surrounding countries of Syria and the numbers that they have in the percentage of their population we need to show leadership so I just give you an opportunity to respond to that as to how this is affecting your ability to carry out your mission well thank you very much I think the the age of impunity that I referred to is driven by two things one is a crisis of diplomacy and to speak to Senator Paul's very important point the roots of these refugee crises are in civil wars and the tools of diplomacy for wars between states are not well suited to the crises that exists within States and so the tools of diplomacy have to be reinvented for a civil war situation rather than an interstate conflict secondly though the crisis of accountability that you referred to speaks directly to the fact that essentially war crimes and in many cases literally war crimes are not investigated and that is the absolute foundation for this the U we all know that the UN Security Council has been blocked from effective investigation of crimes inside Syria it's been left to NGOs some of them based in Germany actually who've done that standing job in highlighting particular individuals who've been the focus of this the US has shown leadership in respect of the Magnitsky act in a different context where it's targeted particular individuals and I think that from my own experience but also from what I see now around the world u.s. leadership provides leverage when you give more aid you're then in a stronger position to say the Gulf countries they've got to step up when you expand your refugee resettlement numbers you're in a better position to say to the European Union you've got to step up as well and then perhaps to tread into more difficult territory when the US embraces the notion that civilian casualties need proper in vet independent investigation it also sends a very important message about what we really mean by accountable government and by liberal democratic principles and it seems to me that's the message that goes out that when you set an example you get leverage and I think that's where what we see and when that example is not set I'm afraid it incentivizes the worst of behavior rather than the best thank you thank you thank you Thank You mr. chairman thank you to both of you for your time and testimony today Mr Miliband we met to thank for the work that you do through IRC we met with some individuals from the office in Denver thank you very much for the work and certainly the work that takes place in Colorado as well I was here and I believe it was may have been the 2015 hearing that you testified to this committee for you talked at the time about the the internally displaced not just in Syria but throughout the region you talked at the time about the the overall global refugee situation being greater than any point since I believe at that time it was world war two could you talk perhaps today in this context in 2019 what's different about the refugee situation either in Syria specifically or globally than it wasn't 2015 and how that difference has occurred thank you very much senator iiiiii I hope I can say that um the fact that you went to meet refugees who'd been resettled in Colorado in Denver sends an incredibly important message and I I think it was a message of humanity that really resonated so on behalf of my team I really want to thank you directly I think three things have changed first of all there are more refugees and internally displaced than there were in 2015 we're now up to 68 point five million in total twenty eight and a half million refugees and asylum seekers who've crossed borders forty million internally displaced secondly the political context in which many of them find themselves has become more complicated in 2015 we weren't talking about 800,000 people under the rule of Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria we weren't talking about so-called HTS the al Qaeda affiliate in the northwest of Syria so the localized politics and the danger of radicalization I think has become greater thirdly the refugee situation has expanded geographically just to speak for our own agency we've had to deploy to Bangladesh because 100,000 Rohingya Muslims were driven out of Myanmar we've had to deploy into Colombia because of the very significant number of displaced people coming out of Venezuela so that's the third aspect of this that the geographical spread has grown to thank you and to either one of you mr. Stiller perhaps you talked about going to Jordan and visiting refugees in Jordan I think we've all shared very similar experience when you travel through them on and the people who travel with point out which settlement or location occurred during which conflict and you can see the refugees from this era and that era and the challenge they face and the education challenges they face and then of course you talked to somebody in Jordan and they talked about how this market here used to be a Jordanian market but this group of refugees is now displaced the local business people and have now taken over that and now they're Jordanians or whatever country it is that are out of work and so that the conflict that creates within the country can be immense from an education standpoint from a resource standpoint from just people who feel that perhaps they were displaced from work that they were doing prior to that because of a refugee policy can you talk about what you saw in in in Jordan and what you see and how we can better adjust our policies to impact education resource needs yeah I think yes thank you for the question yeah I've seen that to be the reality of this huge influx of refugees coming into these very small countries neighboring Syria and Iraq Jordan is such a small population and the percentage per capita of refugees coming in is huge and it just overwhelms their infrastructure and their ability to provide for them and at the same time refugees in these countries really don't have many rights and the ability to work freely and it's different in different countries but I think one of the the things that I saw were children being forced to work because their parents couldn't work when I was in Jordan I went to the Asura camp which is a huge camp where I think it's thirty or forty thousand refugees are where they have no ability to work at all so they have to just form community and be able to try to be productive as they wait for their lives to continue and then the vast majority that are outside the camp's are trying to make ends meet and a lot of the times the parents can't work so I met a child named Khalil who was 13 years old one of I think six or seven kids in a family and has they had come from Aleppo and they'd been there for about three or four years and his father couldn't work due to medical issues so this this boy Khalil similar to the boy I was talking about Yasin had to work at an auto body shop for about 12 to 14 hours a day he's 13 years old and very war-weary face I would say viewed beautiful green eyes I remember him very well he and he said I said to him boy your your your your very your work you work very hard for a young boy he said I'm not a boy I'm a man and I think that's the reality he's missing out on us education he's it's a whole generation of young Syrians who are not having any access to education and the host countries are overwhelmed I had a chance to meet the king and the Queen and Jordan when I was there and they talked about the huge pool it has on their infrastructure so I think it's it's very important to be able to help these host countries so they can provide for their own citizens and provide for the influx of refugees thank you thank you Miss Truman sir Thank You mr. chairman and thank you both very much for being here today and for what you're doing to try and address what is a horrific crisis that the world has not paid enough attention to Mr Miliband last summer I had the opportunity to travel in Northeast Syria Senator Graham and I spent a day there and we were in managed village what we saw was a largely stable area where refugees were coming back Isis had been defeated our troops there had made a huge difference in providing reassurance to the people of that part of Syria that they they were not going to see a resurgence of Isis or other forces that would harm them sadly not later in the year we saw the president tweet and the situation change in Northeast Syria can you talk about how important it is for US presence in that part of Syria especially given as you point out the deteriorating multilateral negotiation situation where talks have not moved forward and as we look at the presence of Iran and Russia and what happens next how important it is for the United States and giving us the leverage that you talked about thanks very much I mean obviously we're a humanitarian organization and we're careful about the boundaries between humanitarian policy and military policy what I can report to you is that in our judgment there's no question that the u.s. presence is a force for stability in that part of Syria I can report that she was an evidential point rather than as an opinion of military strategy it's a precarious situation because you've got the government Syria you've got the Turks from the north you have the danger of a resurgence of Isis you've got Russians who encroached there and met their American match last year and our plea is that every single political and military decision has the humanitarian component built in and the danger obviously is that any change in that precarious and fragile military balance sets off a chain reaction that has devastating humanitarian consequences most obviously a new flow of refugees or displaced people or the danger of radicalization and a resurgence of some kind of organized isis daesh cell there and I think if you do build in that humanitarian component you'd speak to the stability that is essential to try and preserve and how concerned are you about turkeys incursion into that part of Syria if the unite when the United States troops are completely gone and potential for further disruption and humanitarian to further to make a difficult situation even worse happens i think first the most important thing to say is that in thinking about any part of this complicated jigsaw we recognize other parts so I promise I'll come to the point of what happens if a Turkish area is established but I think one has to preface that by saying Turkey has 3.7 million Syrian refugees in the country the population is 80 million it's obviously a much richer country than Jordan or Lebanon it's got greater capacity to cope it's done a genuinely heroic and I certainly agree with it and so I think it's important to put that on the record equally it's important to say that for a variety of reasons when inside Turkey took the Turkish state and it's organisations deal with all the refugees there it's not international NGOs in the main or providing the support and we know that when Turkish authorities established in other parts of Syria there isn't a place for the international NGOs so the most obvious and direct consequence of the development that you described would be that international NGOs would no longer be playing the role that they have been in the past certainly we have health centers at Taliban and elsewhere in the northwest and northeast of the country and they would no longer be there and so that speaks to this very fragile political military but also humanitarian standoff that exists Thank You mr. Stiller you talked in your opening statement about the role that UNHCR has been critical in playing to provide assistance both inside Syria and where refugees have fled can you talk about what you saw and what UNHCR sees is the most pressing needs of the refugees in the areas that you visited oh yeah thank you for that question I I mean when you go there the first thing that that you experience is people living in extreme poverty and these are not people who came there necessarily in extreme poverty I mean I think it's really important to remember that nobody chooses to be a refugee and a refugee is not some poor a wandering person who decided to leave their country refugees are people who were forced to leave due to persecution so there doctors lawyers farmers cab drivers there they're regular people who literally had their their house was bombed and they had to leave so that reality is then you know they're there they're dealing with the fact that they can't work they don't have the right to work so they're living in very very tough conditions and I think that's one of the the biggest issues that UNHCR deals with is trying to help these people make ends meet and just be able to and to be fed and to be able to take care of their children and then to provide access to education so all of these interconnected issues that David's been talking about also are you know the root causes are there but the reality of the humanitarian issue is that these people are trying to survive until they can have a chance to go forward in their lives and to provide for themselves and so UNHCR is working to provide education assistance helping the host countries as I was speaking about earlier to provide education within the country and just services to have access to food and to cash assistance to be able to pay for food and to be able to pay for the rent for these places that they have to stay in that are very very you know tough very tough conditions everywhere I've been I've seen people living in one room or two room dwellings a lot of times with no access to plumbing women living alone who just to be a woman who is a refugee living on your own is incredibly difficult and dangerous and let alone what the children have to deal with just to be able to go to the bathroom if the bathroom is not in your own dwelling is it as a dangerous thing so I think it's providing help for the for the people who are living there in terms of just access to basic needs but then helping the host countries work with programs to allow refugees to be able to work within those countries that's a lot of the work that UNHCR is doing so that they can figure out systems so that these people can work and provide for themselves while they're waiting to go home thank you very much I'm out of time but your point about the importance of the u.s. support for UNHCR is lutely critical right thank you miss thank you sir Sheena Romney I want to thank both of you for being here today and making the the trip to to join us and appreciate the work that you're doing to help alleviate human suffering a question for each of you mr. Stiller first of all I'm sure as you've gone to these various places in the world where refugees are located that you note that there are some places that are doing a better job than others there are some countries that are doing a better job than others in helping refugees there are some organizations that are doing a better job in providing relief and I wondered whether UNHCR is actually or has actually put together a if you will almost a handbook or a guide as to these are the best things you can do to help refugees in your country is there an effort if you will in the business world it's called best practices where you lay out the best practices of one enterprise to learn from it is that happening and and do you have a sense of the kinds of things you'd want to see in listing these are the best things you can do to help refugees that come into your country yeah thank you for the question I I'm not aware if there is a specific handbook of that type or guy but I refer you to my colleagues at UNHCR good I'm sure could tell you about that I mean I think in terms of my experience one of the besides the things we've been talking about I think one of the most important aspects of this is just how people relate to refugees in the world and how they experience them and I think right now my concern is that there is this politicization there's this demonization in from some places of what a refugee is this this cause for fear of refugees are dangerous and the reality is it's the opposite refugees are fleeing danger and and all of these people are not trying to come and invade our our country or any other country they're trying to come and just live until they can go home and resettlement with refugees I think is also a big there's a misunderstanding about that of the millions and millions of refugees only point I think point four percent are actually resettled in a third country point four percent of all refugees so I think it was fifty six thousand worldwide last year so the reality is this small number are the most vulnerable as Senator Menendez was saying and Senator rights were pointing out these people are the ones who are the neediest who are going to a third country I think we can help by supporting organizations like UNHCR that are helping the host countries and I think it's 85% of the refugees are going to these neighbor neighboring countries and these countries are overwhelmed so I think that's a huge part of it and I'd say just attitudes towards refugees humanizing them seeing them as people and not something to be feared thank you Mr Miliband I think we were all drawn by the comments of Senator Paul who who I think correctly pointed out that the Civil War is one of the great causes of a humanitarian crisis throughout the world and refugees being displaced from their homes and he raised the prospect that perhaps we should just let these things run their course and not be involved when an authoritarian ruler decides to abuse their people of course the challenge with that idea is that it would send a very clear message to some of the world's worst actors that the United States of America and other nations that value human rights are not going to come to your aid and it would make it only open the door and create a green light for some of the world's worst actors to pursue policies to oppress their people that being said I do wonder whether there are things that the West or other nations could have done throughout the process in Syria that that would have alleviated human suffering to some degree and and I recognize that with conflict and war there was going to be some human suffering but the the extent of it in Syria is just so overwhelming and the humanitarian crisis that's occurred is is unthinkable and for those that have not been in the region it's it's hard to communicate through words is there as you stand back and look at what happened in Syria or perhaps conflicts are there lessons learned about what we could have done if not to prevent civil war maguet have done to have made the human suffering less intense and less extensive thanks very much senator can I first will answer your first question because you think your value for money point your effectiveness point is incredibly important because the truth is the humanitarian Enterprise has to change historically it was keep people alive until they go home that might be months or a few years and that was relatively straightforward they were in refugee camps you gave them health services you fed them and then they went home but last year less than 2% of the world's refugees went home they're displaced for on average if they're in a camp 17 years and so we can't just say we have to help them survive they have to have the means to thrive and I would really commend to you we do have a guide for what to do it's called the International Rescue Committee outcomes and evidence framework it's online I'd urge you to type into Google IRC outcomes an evidence framework and you can see what our field managers see it's split down across five outcomes was we think it's really important to be led by what are you trying to achieve it then documents what's the evidence that we know from different humanitarian settings around the world about what works and just in parentheses it's tragically difficult to raise money to fund evidence making we know in development contexts stable settings there has been a revolution in the last 20 years largely pioneered by the Gates Foundation to really focus on what works there have been only about 120 evidence studies ever in the humanitarian sector we've done about 40 of them and we've got another 18 on the go but you can see if you type in our IRC out comes an evidence framework what we know what our field managers know and a couple of things come through very clearly one if you give refugees cash you help them and you help the local population and you defuse tension that some people have referred to and we can show you how much of difference it makes secondly our services are always open to host populations as well as refugees so you don't get Lebanese or Jordanians saying well hang on why is there a employment program for them but not for me ditto the same thing with health services thirdly half of the world's displaced people are kids and I don't think it's wrong to talk geo-strategically as well as morally about the utter shortsightedness of failing to educate generations of people who are in the midst of war even if they're then living in stable settings so Lebanon and Jordan we don't have the quote unquote excuse that it's a war zone so they can't get educated the International Committee simply has not stepped up and you will be shocked I hope that less than 2% of the global humanitarian budget goes on education when half of the world's displaced people are children so we've got huge work to do to make sure that the outcomes and the evidence are really the guide to practice sorry to go on whether I've got time to answer his next go ahead very briefly it's a small subject which is how do you stop war so it won't take me very long yeah innocence in a sentence I put one thing on the table what's been missing throughout the Syria crisis and is the lesson of Afghanistan it's the lesson of Iraq is that if you aren't clear about the political settlement that will share power in a credible and legitimate way then no development policy no humanitarian policy no military strategy can ever have a clear destination and the sentence that hasn't been filled in frankly in the Syrian context is there will be a transition from President Assad but we've never completed the sentence what's that a transition to we know what it's a transition from which is autocratic rule is never being clear what there's a transition to and that's been the missing link tragically for the last eight years thank you Sarah Murphy thank you very much mr. chairman thank you both of you for being here today this has been very good Mr Miliband yesterday the State Department issued a statement expressing alarm over the escalation of violence in Italy in northern and they said specifically or there have been reports citing more Russian and regime attacks on civilian infrastructure and humanitarian targets and and I guess my my question to you surrounds what the tools are an artist to do something about this other than just raise alarm the two words that populate talk about the u.s. role in the region today seem to me to be confusion and irrelevance confusion is obvious given the back and forth nature of this administration's policy on what kind of presence we will have there but irrelevance is also an apt description given the fact that as Senator Menendez mentioned we have essentially been pushed out of the diplomatic process Russia Iran and Turkey met again in Kazakhstan on April 25th and once again the United States wasn't there there's vague talk about conversations we continue to have with Turkey about how to settle their claims to the region in a way that doesn't spur more violence but my question to you is how did the United States get pushed out of this diplomatic process and is it too late for us to get ourselves back in because it doesn't seem like we have many tools at our disposal other than complaint if the Russians the Iranians and the Turks have committed to convene a process that will never ever include the United States again despite the equities that we have why have thousands of troops in Syria if somebody else is plotting the future of the country without us well thanks for a very difficult question I think that I would say first of all in some parts of the country you have more equities than others notably in the Northeast and you don't want to give away those equities cheaply secondly the the Russians and their friends know that they can't rebuild Syria alone they're going to need the rest of the world to rebuild Syria and that gives you leverage thirdly this country is blessed to have wide-ranging relationships with every other country in the world and the question is whether we're Syria fits on your docket for the issues that you want to raise with the Russians if it's not in the top three or the top five then it will get consequently less of a role and you know as well than I do the story of what happened after 2015 the Russians entered the Syrian conflicts in September 2015 but until the US shows it matters to them then obviously you're not going to be playing the kind of central role that could be a force for stability in Syria in the wider region I don't disagree that the United States well they have to play a major role in reconstruction that's hard to see as this administration continues to draw down the funds available for it but why on earth we've decided to sit out the conversations about a altima political settlement when everyone acknowledges we will have to play some at the very least monetary rule is beyond me Mr Miliband I want to also take advantage of the fact that you're before this committee is we are about to vote on an effort to override a presidential veto regarding an effort bipartisan effort here in Congress to pull the United States out of the disastrous civil war in Yemen I just came back from the region where I received maybe the most disturbing briefing I have ever received on Yemen in which our humanitarian agencies there told me that there are 250,000 Yemenis today that are starving and are likely beyond saving are beyond help and there's another 10 million who are at risk of falling into that category the state of the economy is in shambles the Saudis have made all sorts of deliberate decisions not to do things that are perfectly within their control to prop it up and what was maybe most interesting to me was when you lay down a map of where these quarter million are that are literally weeks and months away from death by famine they are distributed between the Houthi territory and the territory controlled by the coalition a coalition of which the United States is part and so this isn't just about the Houthi stopping aid from getting in this is also about a decision by the coalition to allow for a campaign of starvation to exist in places that it controls share this bleak assessment of the situation on the ground in Yemen yes I do we have about 800 international rescue committee staff on the ground in Yemen I was in Yemen myself in September the malnutrition that you speak to is profound and there are two critical variables that need to be affected one is that the war strategy of the Coalition has failed 18,000 bombing raids have not far from ending the war they have fueled the war and they've radicalized the population and left Iran stronger not weaker and so it seems to me the leadership role that you've been playing has been outstanding and has been bipartisan has been very very welcome secondly you're absolutely right that the Houthis have also got responsibilities and we take our humanitarian opportunity to talk to all sides and to press them both directly and indirectly about their responsibilities in respect to the Stockholm process which the UN convened in January and which has not been followed through and I think it's that twin-track that's absolutely essential thank you thank you mr. chairman thank you senator Kaine Thank You mr. cheran what a great hearing so I have a thank you I have an observation for my committee leadership and a question for you so the thank you is to both your organization's the IRC and UNHCR you guys do amazing work and I've seen it there as well as in your testimony here and we really appreciate it to the white helmets and I want to thank an American group the Syrian American Medical Society what Sam's has done to provide medical care our Syrian American physicians has been heroic and I want to acknowledge them a comment for leadership is a frustration we have a great bill senator Risch your bill this Caeser Syria Act that I am a strong supporter of that bill would have passed through the Senate unanimously passed through the House unanimously so we had the Caesar Syria civilian protection act and it was bundled together with another completely bipartisan bill the u.s. Jordan defense cooperation act and another completely bipartisan bill that I was a co-sponsor of the u.s. Israel security assistance act and it was bundled together in Senate bill one you mentioned that Senate bill one is high centered in the house let me explain why these were three great bills that were completely bipartisan that would have passed nearly unanimously a decision was made on the floor of the Senate to add a fourth bill the combating BDS bill that was highly controversial and it was added because of a thought that it may split Democrats and Republicans for a political purpose it was more important to make a political statement and divide people about BDS than to pass these bills that were unanimously nearly unanimously supported here we could have had a separate floor debate about the BDS bill but instead it was put in the middle of bills that were completely bipartisan this bill would have been – the Syrian bill that you sponsor that I strongly support would have been on the President's desk and would have been signed but because the BDS provision was included and the BDS provision gives state and local governments the ability to punish contractors who are peacefully supporting the BDS movement it has been a held unconstitutional in three different states most recently in last two weeks in a case in the Fifth Circuit and so you know I think it was John F Kennedy just said the perfect is the enemy the good will the partisan can be the enemy the good too so often when we have things that we all agree on instead of doing that we throw like on a Jenga game or something the one last piece on it that screws the whole thing up and I hope that we'll have a chance to pass the serious Cesar act on I hope we'll have a chance to pass the Israel and Jordan cooperation acts and we should when we can agree on some things that are really good why muddy them up with things that are just that the stunt becomes more important than the substance and I find that frustrating let me ask and I don't demean anybody's position on the BDS bill but we could have had that as a separate debate and discussion and vote and it wouldn't be complicating our support for Syrians let me ask you a question about this you really cued up my question and it's just one issue 17 years was the phrase you mentioned we we can think about refugee status as if it's something temporary we shouldn't think of it that way in Deuteronomy my father was a wandering airman who went into Egypt and sojourn there and grew into a nation great and powerful I mean refugees from the beginning of time have been with us it's not an episodic emergency but we often think about it as an emergency thing so it's going to be tents and porta-potties and water bottles when maybe we should be thinking about permanent structures and water treatment systems and and building schools I have been with Syrian refugees in camps and Madonna I've been with them and urban drop-in centers in Gaza and Turkey I've been with them in sort of urban settings and Beirut if the normal light of a refugee now is more like a 17 year lot than a two month lot what should we be doing is we're providing financial support as were working with our NGOs to take account of that reality of refugees because it's it's a different model in terms of what to fund and what to support if you acknowledge that 17 year reality thanks very much I think it's a great point and just to add the statistics once you've been a refugee for five years the average goes up to 21 years yeah so this room was been going on for a year as most of the refugees have been refugees for at least five years so it's long term what's the answer one we need the humanitarian development systems to work together rather than separately we can cut the bureaucracy but we can actually also improve the outcomes and we need to drive the short-term interventions in such a way that they're actually linked to the longer-term interventions secondly we've got to take education seriously it was we're neglecting the next generation that's an absolutely no brainer about 50% 2% yes really vivid great I'm glad registered thirdly we've got to mobilize the international financial institutions in an even more activist way than we have so far the World Bank the IMF but also the regional banks as well because the truth is we're not gonna get the government of Jordan to extend rights to work for refugees while they've got twenty six percent unemployment of their own population and they've got a debt to GDP ratio of 94 percent of GDP up from 55 percent so we need to think strategically about the way in which the international system Accords benefit to those countries that are delivering on this global public good and it's got to be a shift of mindset from short-term band-aids to long-term strategic intervention and if you can get the education right get the employment right get the macroeconomic support right you can create conditions that this doesn't become a toxic fight of the host community against the refugees but actually become something that like in Uganda has actually been managed well has got people off aid and actually created benefit for both sides thank you that's we could talk about that for a long time I pretty good chair thank you senator Kaine Sara Markey Thank You mr. chairman I want to thank our witnesses for your commitment to this important issue and I want to thank the representatives of the Syrian white helmets for being here today your dedication and your personal sacrifices deserve our respect and our admiration and our thanks national security experts from both Democrat and Republican administrations have recognized the strategic benefits to the United States a robust refugee resettlement unfortunately as other senators have mentioned the Trump administration is dismantling the u.s. refugee admissions program last year President Trump cut our refugee admissions ceiling to a record low 30,000 people less than a third of the historical average of 95,000 admissions to the United States and now almost halfway through the year only 12,000 refugees have been welcomed into the United States including fewer than 300 Syrians Mr Miliband I could not agree more with your statement that the world's greatest superpower should not reject the world's most vulnerable in our greatest time of need three weeks ago I introduced the grace Act which would prevent this administration from continuing its efforts to slash refugee admissions this bill would prevent any u.s. president from settling in the annual refugee admissions level below 95 thousand each year we already have 12 senators who have co-sponsored it and we're going to continue to build momentum on that mr. steal our Mr Miliband has spoken eloquently on the need for American leadership can use can you give us your statement as to why you believe it's the role of the United States to play this role a yes probably less eloquently but I mean I was speaking about this a little bit earlier but I feel the US has always been a beacon for welcoming refugees over a country of refugees and I think as you were pointing out as the u.s. goes so goes the world and so this is a global issue too but the the reality is that refugees are additive to our communities to our economy they literally contribute billions of dollars in tax money and revenue to the economy I think it's there's a statistic 40% of all fortune 500 companies were either started by refugee or immigrant or their children I mean it's it's just part of the fabric of American life and it's distressing to me to see the numbers go down as they have because we we have to lead the world in this and the reality is that it's only these people are are only the most vulnerable or being admitted and it's 0.4 percent of all refugees in the world so I think it's very important for the u.s. to lead on this and we have the ability to and it's been proven to actually help our country thank you Mr Miliband you've been leader on this and on climate change when I was made the chair in 2007 of the Select Committee on climate change over in the house my first hearing my first witness and my first hearing was General Gordon Sullivan four-star general commander of the army and he testified that when he looked back at the decision which he had made in Somalia which was in Mogadishu which came to be known as Black Hawk Down and he sent in personnel that he didn't fully understand why we were there and now testifying before my committee on behalf of 12 other four-star generals and admirals he wanted to say that he now realizes in retrospect that it was a drought caused by climate change that had brought factions closer and closer together fighting over limited resources and that then the United States had to go in in order to try to separate them provide aid to those who had been affected could you talk about that talk about Syria too and the effects of climate change and how you see that playing out not just in Syria but in other parts of the world and what the responsibility of the United States has to lead on climate change as well thanks very much I think that the best way to understand this is that climate change increases resource stress and resource stress is a conflict multiplier there's a legitimate and credible line of argument that the drought in the northwest of Syria in 2008 to 11 which drove hundreds of thousands of people into the cities was a contributor to the revolt although I always remind people that in 2005 the Damascus declaration sow the seeds of the demand for accountable government before that drought so it's a multifactorial but we know from our work around the world the lake Chad basin being an obvious example where you've got Northeast Nigeria Chad Cameroon Niger climate change is happening it is causing resource stress resource stress does drive conflict and when it's combined with corruption miss governance poverty religious religion ethnic difference you've got a tinderbox and the truth is that we're going to be living with this for many decades to come and the danger is that we neither mitigate nor adapt ourselves to that situation thank you thank you both for your leadership thank you so mark well thank you all for being here today some of the Indians and women I want to close up just briefly with a couple of remarks mr. Stiller you undoubtedly were impressed me with king of Jordan and and his wife they come and see us gosh I'll bet it seems like quarterly but it's probably just once ever he has six months but it's really unfortunate we don't have leaders like that all over the Middle East we wouldn't have the kind of issues that we have they they do remarkable things and particularly being hosts I'll be involuntarily to the refugees thousands and thousands of refugees in their country Mr Miliband I was a little disappointed I guess in whoever it was the made the remark to you about from Jordan saying well we kind of feel like we're on our own if the United States doesn't do X & Y one of the great untold stories that most Americans have no idea is we are doing a tremendous amount there as compared to the rest of the world I mean we are the ones that are funding are being are providing the funds so that Jordan can take care of those people in those refugee camps and it's it's a tremendous humanitarian crisis there and it's our money that is that is sustained that so they the Jordanians are not alone and I can tell you the king and the queen do not feel that they are alone and as they are that they every time they come to see us they are very strong in their thanks to the people of the United States of America for helping in those refugee camps oh I don't know what the context of that conversation was you had with a Jordanian person but I can tell you that the king and queen every time they come to see us are not dragging their feet about about how important the US help is has been and will be so Thank You mr. chairman and I agree with you the king and queen are very appreciative of US assistance driven to a large degree by the Congress and also but while they are so appreciative of our assistance that they have a bigger huger dynamic and so it's the rest of the world community that needs to be engaged equally as well mr. Stiller in your professional life you bring us humor you give us insights into our lives you talk about through your medium our humanity and in this regard I was thinking about some of the stories that you told briefly and you're a visit most recently can you share any insights in Lebanon for example it's my sense that Hezbollah and the Lebanese government are pressuring refugees to return back to Syria 1.5 million did you glean from your visits there a sense of you you you describe life as it is did you glean from your conversations how Syrian refugees see their future did you glean from your interactions a sense of what it would take for them to return I'm pretty much of a view of why they don't return right now but there are some who question why they don't return can you share any insights in that we're going yeah thank you for that I I feel that almost to a person everyone I talked to they're desperately wanted to return or wanted to return in a very real way whether or not the reality of that was possible was it as a different question I met a woman in Tripoli who was living alone I was talking about her earlier who her husband had gone back decided to go back I think a year or a year and a half ago and he disappeared and she hasn't heard from him since and she doesn't know what happened to him and I think you know that's indicative of the reality for these people is that they just don't know what they're going back to and I have to make this very difficult decision on their own and it's a very fluid situation so I think there's a they know that they have to make a life where they are but they also have a strong desire to go back you know I find in the camps it's a little bit more there's less hope sometimes because they're just in this this sort of limbo and they have no opportunity to do to work at all I think people living outside of the camps are trying to find work where they can but again they don't have the right to work most of the time the children I think is the biggest issue because the those two young twins I talked about in the beginning they've lived outside of Syria their whole lives they actually don't even remember Syria because they would left when they were six months old so I was at a settlement where they a group does puppet shows for the for the kids tell them about Syria and and tell them about the places in Syria through characters talking about it in a in a way that actually it's it's towns that we hear about Aleppo and Homs that we hear about in a very negative way here in America in this publisher they're talking about talking about these places as these wonderful places where these kids will someday go back to and the purpose of it is to educate these kids about their home country so that when they someday go back they will have a connection with it and I think that's the concern I don't know if they you know what the reality is for a lot of these people but I know that they have a strong desire to go back and but but the reality right now is that until it can be a safer place for them to go back they it's it's hard to recommend for anybody to recommend they go back they have to make that decision on their own which is really difficult Thanks thank you so much mr. Milliband one last question we have had the violations of international law and humanitarian response in Syria's we have never seen may be at any other time certainly in modern history are you familiar with the Ceasar a serious civilian Protection Act would that strengthen our hand in holding accountable perpetrators of violence and in july and violations of international law thank you senator now I know many of you including the chairman have shown great leadership in leading on this Caeser act from our point of view the fact that you've included a humanitarian carve out to make sure that humanitarian effort is not undermined by this is a really smart and good development we see this as a useful intervention that could really make a difference if it is part of a wider strategy because I think one of you said on its own it's not a silver bullet but as part of a wider package of development diplomatic political engagement it's got a real role to play and if I may just having the floor I want to associate myself very strongly with what you mr. chairman said about the role that the king and queen of Jordan have played the Queen sits on our Board of Overseers having been on our board of Directors the context I was asked was one in which the number of refugees being resettled from Jordan has dropped from nineteen thousand three years ago to three thousand nine hundred then to just fifty two coming to the United States and it was in that particular context that so many Jordanians feel that they're quote-unquote on their own and the king himself I thought in a very telling and honest way said in a recent interview publicly I'm sure he said the same to you privately he said publicly for the first time we can't do it anymore the dam is going to burst and that really cuts the core of both the moral issue that so many of you have raised but also the geopolitical issue because Jordan is such an important ally of the US and there's both a moral reason to help the refugees but also a geopolitical reason to help ensure that people who are trying leaders who are doing trying to do the right thing have the international support to be able to do so thank you appreciate thank you to both of you notes have gone off and we were gonna have to go down and cast our vote but this will conclude our hearing today and I want to thank both of you sincerely for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come here and and be with us we're going to keep the record open until the close of business on Friday questions can be submitted we'd ask the witnesses to respond to those as promptly as you can if you if you will and with that also I would like to note that we have had a request for written testimony to be entered into the record from David Lilly the executive director of the Syrian american medical society foundation that will be included in the record again thank you all for attending today this hearing is adjourned

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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