Refugees International's 37th Anniversary Dinner took place at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on April 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sir Richard Branson was awarded RI's highest humanitarian award, the McCall-Pierpaoli Award. The Congressional Leadership Award was presented to Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and the Richard C. Holbrooke Award was presented to Ukrainian humanitarian Olena Honcharova.
This Friday, President Obama and other world leaders will be meeting in New York to sign the historic UN climate change accord reached in Paris last November. With 130 countries standing ready with pens poised – including the world’s two largest emitters, the U.S. and China – there is much cause for celebration. But with numerous scientific studies showing that climate change is happening faster than anticipated, and more still questioning whether the commitments under the Paris agreement will get us where we need to be in order to avoid “dangerous interference with the climate system,” it’s time to get real about whether we’re doing enough to prepare and adapt our communities, sources of income, and ways of life to a warmer, more disaster-prone, and insecure world.
With lives on the line and nearly all the world affected by the current crisis in the Middle East and Europe, now is the time to take a hard look at how governments address the issues surrounding mass global migration. Specifically, we must examine how to make government actions more effective by encouraging greater partnership with corporations and humanitarian organizations to promote peace, advance freedom and protect fundamental human rights.
In March 2015, the first Burundian refugees began arriving in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fleeing persecution and fearing an all-out war at home. Since then, just over 20,000 have come – a relatively small number, compared with today’s other refugee crises. But donors and the United Nations have struggled to meet the needs, leaving many refugees feeling frustrated and abandoned.
My colleague Michael Boyce and I spent the past week meeting with Burundian refugees in South Kivu. There are around 16,000 Burundians living at the Lusenda refugee site, as well as another 5,000 or more residing with host communities in villages to the north and south of Uvira. Though the numbers might appear small for a refugee crisis, the context is complex and volatile and requires a robust and well-resourced response.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the largest and most populous countries in Africa; so almost inevitably, any problem in the DRC is a big problem. In previous years, Refugees International has traveled to the DRC to report on internal displacement and gender-based violence – tragedies that afflict millions of Congolese civilians. But during our visit to the country this month, my colleague Mark Yarnell and I will focus on a problem that seems – at first glance – far more limited: the arrival of just over 20,000 refugees from neighboring Burundi. At a time of desperate humanitarian need and severe political turmoil elsewhere in the DRC, why focus on such a “small” problem? The answer is that it only takes one match to start a five-alarm fire
Today’s deal between the European Union and Turkey marks a troubling precedent in the search for a principled and effective response to the refugee crisis confronting Europe. While Refugees International is relieved to see that the agreement appears to consider elements of respect for the right to seek asylum in Greece, we are concerned with the provision that states that the EU will return all new irregular migrants, an apparent contradiction that must be clarified. Serious legal, ethical, and moral questions remain about the implementation of the deal
There are many challenges confronting the international aid architecture, but one issue currently in the spotlight is the localization of aid. In short, the localization of aid is the trend of giving money directly to local NGOs or to a developing country’s government, rather than giving indirectly through international organizations. The goal is to support local structures, so that there may be real ownership at the local level – beyond national governments and international organizations.
On March 7th, European and Turkish leaders announced a breakthrough in agreeing to a framework for a possible deal on managing the flow of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey onto Greece’s shores. If the framework is implemented as it has been presented, it appears that the deal would strike a major blow to refugee rights. Currently, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Greece, with deteriorating conditions for refugee arrivals who are attempting to transit through the country. European leaders and international actors should focus attention and resources on protecting and assisting refugees and asylum seekers, not trading away their rights in the hopes of preventing new arrivals.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Syria crisis. With more than half the country’s original population displaced and humanitarian access still restricted, it’s not obvious from a quick glance that there have been some positive changes in the past five years. When RI first started visiting Syria and the surrounding countries in 2012, there was relatively little appreciation for some of the basic facts: most Syrian refugees were not housed in camps, Syrian children and adolescents were missing out on multiple years of basic education, and local Syrian groups were providing significant amounts of humanitarian aid and services inside Syria
Climate change poses serious threats to agriculture and food security globally. Its impacts on agriculture include, but are not limited to, heat waves, pests, drought, desertification, freshwater decline, and biodiversity loss. The global poor, who are most dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, are most vulnerable to climate change impacts on agriculture. They are also the most likely to be forced from their homes when a drought or flooding wipe out agricultural resources on which they depend.
While teaching at Pima College, I had the honor of working with Amal, a young Dinka tribesman from Sudan. As an assignment, I asked my students to document their unique cultural geography. However difficult it was for Amal to discuss what he and his people experience, he put it in words. Amal has sadly passed away since the assignment. However, I would like to share his story.
Turkey now hosts the largest population of Syrian refugees with 2.5 million registered. After two years of debate about whether Syrian refugees in Turkey should be eligible for work permits, the Turkish government has stated that some Syrians will be offered permission to work. The details are significant: Syrian refugees must be registered, must have been in the country for at least six months, and must apply for the permit in the province where they first registered, among other conditions.
I met Amara earlier this week in the office of a local grassroots organization in Borno state’s capital, Maiduguri. Amara, a pretty, cherub-faced girl, was accompanied by her mother with whom she had been reunited just six weeks prior, after a one year-long separation. Their separation was not voluntary. Over a year ago, Amara had been abducted by Boko Haram when they attacked her village of Baga.
Since 2009, Boko Haram insurgents have been terrorizing civilians in northeastern Nigeria. The group gained international notoriety when they abducted hundreds of girls from a school in Chibok, in Borno State, and over the years has abducted thousands of men, women, boys, and girls to use as soldiers and sex slaves. An estimated two million Nigerians have been displaced as a result of Boko Haram’s campaign of terror.
I am in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State, and the home to approximately 1.6 million people who have been displaced by the terrorist group Boko Haram. For the past few days, I have been meeting with some of those displaced, and hearing their stories of the attacks that forced them to flee.
Ja’far Abdikadir* is a shoe shiner in Dagahaley. He has been working for a couple of years as the breadwinner for a desperate family comprising of a mother and siblings. Ja’far at the age of 13 years simultaneously manages to go to school and work as a shoe shiner. The latter is the only source of income for this vulnerable family.
Friends of Refugees International convened in New York City on December 2, 2015 to hear "The Refugee Experience," a panel featuring two displaced people with whom RI has worked and moderated by RI Board Member Sam Waterston. The panelists included Abdi Iftin Nor, a refugee from Somalia now living in the United States, and Sigifredo Ponce, a young man from Mexico internally displaced by cartel violence.