There are close to 60 million people currently displaced by war and persecution, the most since World War II. You have undoubtedly seen the media coverage of the crisis in the Mediterranean that illustrates the enormous challenges refugees face in trying to access protection and assistance. Advocating for life-saving protection for refugees and displaced people has been Refugee International’s mission for more than 35 years. However, at a time when the humanitarian system is near breaking and countries are struggling to meet the protection and assistance needs of millions of people fleeing war and persecution, I am deeply concerned that the U.S. and world leaders are not fully confronting the potential impact of climate change on displacement and migration, and the threat it presents to human security.
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.
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.