WASHINGTON: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken both commended Kuwait's extraordinary commitment to global causes and humanitarian efforts worldwide This came during their participation in the annual Kuwait-America Foundation Gala Dinner in support of UNHCR and its impactful work worldwide held by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah. For the last 18 years, Sheikha Rima, wife of Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem Al-Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, has gathered distinguished guests raising critical funds in support of vital causes around the world.

The focus of this year's gala dinner returns to the global refugee crisis as over 100 million people around the world have fled their homes, which is the highest number ever recorded. The event featured US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as keynote speaker and honored US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who received the Public Service Award and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Hollywood star Cate Blanchett, who received the Humanitarian Award. Blinken accepted the award on behalf of Raimondo. First Lady Jill Biden, Sheikh Salem and Guterres were also in attendance as special guests.

In her welcoming remarks, Sheikha Rima ِthanked Blinken, Guterres and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi for their presence at the gala and for "their work on behalf of tens of millions of people in need around the world". She also thanked all the donors who have so generously supported the refugee agency, adding, "this year alone we have, once again, raised over $1 million for UNHCR".

Sheikh Salem emphasized the vital work of the refugee agency and its "urgent call to action". He said that Kuwait was proud to be a longstanding supporter of UNHCR and stressed that in the last 10 years, Kuwait's contributions to the agency have been close to $500 million, "establishing Kuwait as a top donor to UNHCR in the region". "These funds have helped provide emergency humanitarian aid and protection to millions of men, women, and children around the world, and even as I speak, Kuwait continues to provide aid to Sudan and Ukraine," he remarked.

"This profound commitment did not come about by accident... It is who we are as Kuwaitis... Our humanitarian ethos is inscribed in our history, spirit and DNA. The Kuwait-US relationship is today as strong as it has ever been... Kuwait and the US share a common pursuit of global peace and stability and a solid commitment to the international rules-based order. Ours is a partnership that is time- and battle-tested. We in Kuwait remain faithful bridge-builders, neutral mediators, honest brokers and unrelenting peacemakers... It is who we are... It is who we will always be," Sheikh Salem said

Blinken praised Sheikha Rima for her extraordinary work and leadership in raising over $20 million since she founded and chaired her annual Kuwait America Foundation gala dinners. Blinken also congratulated Sheikh Salem in his new capacity as foreign minister, saying he is looking forward for them to continue working together. He said that the event highlights "the stronger and ever growing partnership between Kuwait and the US, bringing us closer together to supporting refugees around the world as they seek safety and opportunity".

"We are grateful to partner with Kuwait in this endeavor," Blinken remarked. "As UNHCR's largest donor in the Middle East, Kuwait has lead the way again and again and again around the globe." He added that this gala reflected that supporting refugees is "a challenge we cannot solve alone, we need partners, we need partners across the board."

In a similar fashion, Guterres thanked Sheikha Rima for an outstanding service as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. "As a former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I must say that the best decision I have made is to appoint you," he said. He noted  this event is an "extraordinary expression of generosity" and draws attention to one of the most existential causes of all time. Guterres praised Kuwait for being a country that is "a symbol of wisdom and solidarity... a bridge builder and messenger of peace," highlighting the generosity of Kuwait as something he will never forget for the rest of his life.

Among attendees at the gala dinner were US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, Senators Chris Coons, Joe Manchin, Ed Markey and Bob Menendez, in addition to Senior Advisor to the President Mike Donilon, Counselor of the Department of State Derek Chollet, Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security Amos Hochstein and former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe. Also attending were Kuwait's Ambassador to the US Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah, Saudi Ambassador to the US Reema bint Bandar Al Saud and Qatar's Ambassador to the US Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, as well as the ambassadors of Jordan, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Australia, France, Italy, Switzerland and the European Union (EU) among others. - KUNA