The United States remains committed to its role as a global leader on humanitarian issues and will continue seeking to avert crises that spawn the need for humanitarian aid, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said.

Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan

“Helping those in need is one of our country’s core values and very much in the national interest,” Sullivan said today at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “How we assist people in time of conflict, distress and natural disaster reflects how we see the world, and is integral to how we execute our foreign policy.”

Sullivan’s remarks to USIP’s International Advisory Council came just before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who brought Sullivan on as his deputy in May, was scheduled to leave the department for his home in Texas. Sullivan said that the day was “bittersweet” for him and that he was honored by Tillerson’s decision to select him as his second-in-command.

How we assist people in time of conflict, distress and natural disaster reflects how we see the world, and is integral to how we execute our foreign policy.

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan

While Sullivan cited several examples of crises where $8 billion in U.S. assistance last year delivered humanitarian relief, he highlighted Venezuela as an “entirely man-made” disaster, “created by a corrupt regime that denies its people not only the ability to choose their leaders, but also the ability to meet their basic needs.”

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that 1.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2014, he said. The administration announced this week that the United States will provide an additional $2.5 million to assist Venezuelans who have crossed into Colombia in search of food and medicine.

A few weeks ago, he noted, the administration announced more than $500 million in additional humanitarian assistance for refugee and displace populations in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and other countries in the Lake Chad region.

Sullivan said the range of crises today demands an international response, as well as “the need for other governments, and other actors in the private sector, to contribute to humanitarian efforts.”

In a question and answer session following his remarks, USIP President Nancy Lindborg asked Sullivan “what keeps you up at night?”

Sullivan replied that it is the management of the State Department and its personnel, rather than the crises abroad.

“We don’t have tanks, we don’t have carrier strike groups,” he said. “We have people, men and women. Making sure that they are treated fairly, inspired and supported, that’s what keep me up at night. … It’s not a worry. It’s my priority.”

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