Peace Times: Peace Person of the Week

Read the original article here.

This week’s poll for Peace Person of the Week closed at midnight Friday, and with 64% of the votes, the group chosen this week is:

Refugees International

Refugees International is an organisation totally independent of funding from governments or the UN, meaning that it is not beholden to particular viewpoints. The group relies instead on donations, and uses these to undertake around a dozen research missions each year, to places where refugees are being created or are living.

RI started in 1979, initially focused on refugees in Indo-China, but it now works for refugees everywhere, with recent reports on the situations for Sudanese in Chad, Eritreans in Israel, Syrians in Egypt, displaced persons in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Ukraine, amongst others.

The group’s mission is to identify refugees and displaced peoples’ needs for basic services such as food, water, healthcare, housing, access to education and protection from harm.  They use their field-based knowledge of humanitarian emergencies, to challenge policy makers and aid agencies to improve the lives of these people. As they say, where there are needs, they witness what is lacking, present solutions, and demand action. Their lobbying of groups such as the UN, and governments, helps to spread information, and change attitudes, regarding crises which may be at a very early stage when first raised by RI.

In a world of increasing populations, dealing with self-inflicted violence, as well as natural disasters, the requirement for RI’s work has never been greater. As has been seen in India over the past weeks, flooding caused by a combination of unplanned and  unsustainable development, along with unusual rainfall, potentially linked with climate change, has caused massive damage and over 300 deaths.

The growing problem of climate change, means that as well as their ‘obvious’ work with refugees, RI has a programme which focuses on the increasing role of global warming in refugee situations. In this area, they have helped convince the U.S. government to support the Nansen Initiative, which looks for solutions for those fleeing the results of climate-related disasters, who are not currently classed as refugees.

Other concrete successes include examples such as changing the UN’s policy on funding Congolese refugees only if they were in official camps, persuading Israel to treat Eritraens as refugees, and pushing for funding for UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR).

RI has a programme focused on the improvement of well-being and safety for women and girls, and this has also seen successes, for example in CAR, they lobbied for greater help for victims of rape, who were looking for help and counselling around sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies. They also raised concerns about a lack of help in preventing gender-based violence among displaced Syrians, leading to funding from the UK’s Department for International Development.

The scope of problems around the world, means that Refugees International is always looking for donations, and partnerships with groups able to help them sustain their mission. The important work they do for some of the world’s least privileged people, certainly deserves support.