Ambassador Robert F. Godec’s Remarks during the first ever TEDX Event at Kakuma

Governor of Turkana County Josphat Nanok;

UNHCR Country Representative Raouf Mazou;

My friend, Octopizzo; Tegla Loroupe;

Colleagues in the Diplomatic Community;

And, of course, to you – the refugees of Kakuma – who are the reason we are here today.

Good Afternoon! Hamjambo!

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here in Kakuma with you today. This is not my first visit to Kakuma. I have been here several times, including for the ‘Artists for Refugees’ exhibition with the marvelous musician, Octopizzo, in 2015. I also had the wonderful opportunity to run with the refugees who participated in the inaugural refugee team at the 2016 Rio Olympics! At each opportunity I have had to interact with refugees, I have been inspired by your resilience, strength, and courage.

And I am incredibly inspired – blown away! — by today’s speakers. Inspired because, as refugees, torn from everything you had known, you have not let that stop you from growing and innovating and achieving. And also inspired by all those here, so many of you are humanitarians, who are assisting refugees, using their skills and their talents to help. I know that some around the world may see refugee camps in a negative light, somehow refugees are seen as a burden. They are mistaken. Camps are places of refuge, yes, but they are also places of possibility and of hope. Places where people can be safe, have dignity, and where they can begin the process of building a better, more secure life for themselves and their families. Places where people can make a contribution to all of humanity.

Kenya has long been a generous host to refugees from across the region. The Government of Kenya, through the Nairobi Action Plan and Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, has committed to enhancing the self-reliance of refugees. Kenya, I know, understands that hosting refugees not only honors its regional and international commitments, but also has benefits for the country. Kenya deserves our gratitude for its hospitality.

But we all know the challenges refugees face, and it is clear that now is the time for all of us to do more and to find better ways to help refugees more effectively. The goal is to provide more than humanitarian help. It’s to give refugees – and the local communities around them — more opportunities for development, better infrastructure, and improved access to health care and other social services. Doing so, we know, benefits everyone and I welcome the initiatives underway by the Kenyan government, county government, and international partners.

The United States plays a leading role in responding to the needs of refugees around the world and here in Kenya. We provide support to help refugees return home voluntarily in safety and dignity when conditions permit. We are committed to finding durable solutions for refugees and their families, to help every refugee to rebuild his or her life in safety, dignity, and peace.

While we work to promote lasting peace, stability, and human rights in conflict areas so that refugees may one day return to their countries, we know that for some this may not be possible or take a long time – which is why our new efforts with refugees and communities are so important. Refugees, as demonstrated by today’s speakers, want to contribute their knowledge, talents, and skills to the world. Allowing them to do so permits refugees to “Thrive,” the theme of today’s event.

“Thrive” means, of course, to prosper, to flourish, to grow or develop well or vigorously. Today’s speakers and the refugees of Kakuma define “thrive.” You show how empowering refugees leads to a more peaceful, tolerant, and prosperous world for all of us; how we “thrive” by working together.

Thank you to the other organizations co-sponsoring today’s TED-x program, including: Safaricom, H&M Foundation, FilmAid, The World Bank, UNICEF, the European Union, MOSOUND, and, of course, UNHCR. We are pleased to be able to join you in supporting this phenomenal initiative.

And many thanks to TED-x for providing the avenue to share the important messages of today with a global audience.

I look forward to the rest of today’s program and to hearing more about how refugees are turning the difficult and challenging experience of displacement into an opportunity for growth, development, and prosperity for themselves, for local communities, and for the world.

Thank you.