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Refugees International 40th Anniversary Dinner

  • Andrew Mellon Auditorium 1301 Constitution Avenue Northwest Washington, DC, 20229 United States (map)

Refugees International’s annual Anniversary Dinner is an awards ceremony and celebration honoring individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment to humanitarian action. More than 500 people attend this event each year.


This year’s McCall-Pierpaoli Award, RI’s highest humanitarian award, will be presented to the Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q., Senior Counsel at Bordon Ladner Gervais LLP and Former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for International Migration. 

In bestowing RI’s McCall-Pierpoli Humanitarian Award, RI is recognizing Ms. Arbour’s lifetime of work in the pursuit of justice and human rights. Ms. Arbour has achieved the highest levels of leadership whether it be at the UN, as a jurist, or at a leading advocacy organizations. What characterizes her leadership is her willingness in these roles to take on the most difficult challenges, to push the international community to do better, and the vision and drive to bring about systemic, transformational change in the pursuit of justice and human rights.

From March 2017 to December 2018, Louise Arbour served as the United Nations Special Representative for International Migration, where she leads advocacy efforts on international migration, provided policy advice and coordinated the engagement of United Nations entities on migration issues. She previously served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She is a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the Court of Appeals for Ontario. From 2009 to 2014, Ms. Arbour was President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Madam Arbour formerly sat as an ad hoc judge in the International Court of Justice, and as a member of the Advisory Panel to the Minister of Defence on Canada’s Defence Policy Review.

She has received numerous honorary doctorates and awards. Most noteworthy, she has been a Companion of the Order of Canada since 2007 and a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec since 2009, as well as a Commander of the Légion d’honneur, and has been decorated by Spain, Colombia and Belgium. She was named laureate of the 2016 Tang Prize in the Rule of Law category.

The McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award will also be awarded to President Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio and Dr. Vartan Gregorian for their philanthropic work with the Global Platform for Syrian Students and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In bestowing this award to President Sampaio and Dr. Gregorian, RI is recognizing their dedication to public service and lifetime of leadership in the international community.

As a lawyer, President Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio took numerous cases to the courts of the dictatorship, defending political prisoners and exposing the abuses of the police. He defended, on a pro bono basis, several victims of state repression. He also defended human rights as a member of the European Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe.

During his presidency, Mr. Sampaio did much to communicate a democratic and modern image of Portugal and for its international recognition. During his two presidential terms, he participated in almost all debates related to challenges currently facing the international community, including HIV-AIDS, drugs, human rights, children’s rights, and other issues.

Mr. Sampaio also held the position of UN Secretary-General’s first Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis from 2006 to 2012 and the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations from 2007 to 2013.

Most recently he has been involved in two main fields of action: as a member of the Global Commission on Drugs Policy, he has been advocating for major reforms of drug policy; he has also launched the Global Platform for Syrian Students, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at providing emergency scholarships to Syrian students that allow them to resume their university studies.

His new project aims at setting up a Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies (RRM) that will allow to create a fast track entry point in the Humanitarian agenda to provide more, better and faster academic assistance to students in crisis situations.

Vartan Gregorian is the twelfth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant-making institution founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. He assumed his current position in 1997. Previously, he served as president of Brown University and as president of The New York Public Library.

He was born in Tabriz, Iran, of Armenian parents, receiving his elementary education in Iran and his secondary education in Lebanon. He was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and later became its twenty-third provost. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, honorary degrees and awards including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the American Academy of the Institute of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Service to the Arts, the National Humanities Medal, and the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.


Taller Salud, an inspirational humanitarian aid group in Puerto Rico, will be honored with the Richard C. Holbrooke Award for providing critical services and unwavering support in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and María. 


U.S. Representative Will Hurd of Texas will receive Refugees International’s 2019 Congressional Leadership Award for his commitment to public service, recognition that principles of humanitarianism and humanity must inform policy making toward those who have been forced to flee their homes, and commitment to the resolution of challenging migration issues through civil discourse based on facts and not fear.


Mayor Wilmot Collins of Helena, Montana will receive Refugees International’s Exceptional Service Award for his extraordinary advocacy on behalf of refugees not only in Helena, Montana but throughout the United States. He has highlighted the stories of refugees and displaced persons, including his own compelling personal story as a resettled refugee and has effectively championed the importance of the U.S. refugee resettlement program while reminding the public about the enormous positive contributions of refugees to our society.


Mariela Shaker, refugee, advocate, and classical violinist will also perform at the event.


Darya and Vali Nasr will serve as the evening’s Benefit Chairs, and Sarah Bovim, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Whirlpool Corporation and Jodi Bond, Executive Vice President of Global Government & Industry Affairs at Chubb, will co-chair the Global Partnership Initiative. 

Ambassador to the United States from Costa Rica, Fernando Llorca Castro and Evelyn Cermeño, will serve as the evenings Honorary Chairs.

2019 Corporate Sponsors


Gilead Sciences


Chubb • Repsol Oil & Gas USA, LLC




Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP • Blackstone Charitable Foundation • Citigroup • Discovery, Inc. • Dow • LigaDATA



For more information about sponsorships and tickets, click here.

To learn more about RI’s 39th Anniversary Dinner, click here.