Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the Venezuela Donors’ Conference, held today:
It is a pleasure to greet this important donors’ conference. After six consecutive years of economic contraction, the sociopolitical, security and humanitarian situation in Venezuela continues to impose great hardship on the living conditions and physical and mental well-being of the country’s people.
Many have had no option but to leave their country. The massive exodus of more than 5.6 million people has resulted in the loss of skills vital to the country’s welfare and prosperity.
At the same time, the arrival of so many refugees and migrants in other countries is exacerbating social and economic tensions. Venezuelans are facing increasing discrimination and xenophobia, and finding it increasingly difficult to access institutional protection.
COVID-19 has aggravated these challenges. Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, the economic impact of the pandemic has been devastating, particularly for those depending on the informal sector to survive. The closure of borders has forced many Venezuelans to travel in extreme conditions.
The United Nations system and our partners are working to respond to their most pressing needs, both in their country and in the region. The United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela works to improve coordination and the provision of assistance.
In April, the World Food Programme (WFP) obtained the agreement of the Government of Venezuela to provide school meals to thousands of vulnerable children. This will help to address the worrying increase in child malnutrition — and could pave the way to a more productive relationship with humanitarian organizations, including NGOs [non-governmental organizations].
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and our partners are supporting Governments, civil society and host communities in providing food, water, shelter, legal protection, medicines and education.
Venezuelan refugees and migrants must be included in all vaccination efforts if we are to effectively mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Experience shows that migrants and refugees also contribute to the development of host countries. And Venezuelan refugees and migrants are no exception. They are making significant economic contributions across the region, and they have vast potential to generate new opportunities and benefits for the receiving communities. But, this requires inclusive policies that promote the socioeconomic integration of migrants and refugees.
In past decades, the people of Venezuela opened their doors and their hearts to refugees and migrants from the region and beyond. Today, they are in desperate need. With your support, we will be able to alleviate today’s suffering and chart a path to a better future. Thank you.