High-level UN refugee summit leaves aid agencies disappointed

| September 20, 2016
A Syrian refugee holds his daughter while waiting to cross into Turkey.

A Syrian refugee holds his daughter while waiting to cross into Turkey.

(GIN)—A high-level summit at the United Nations on Monday addressing the large movements of refugees and migrants, failed to produce any concrete measures during the all-day event, leading some observers to dismiss  its accomplishments as “all talk and no action.”

The summit’s final report gives the international community another two years to reach a “global compact” on how to share the burden. A pledge to resettle 10 percent of the world’s refugees within the developed world was removed during negotiations last month.

“Any refugee reading the conclusions of Monday’s summit is bound to say ‘what is going to change?’ said David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee aid organization. “The answer they would have to be given is ‘very little.’”

World leaders “may be patting themselves on the back,” but “their political commitments are falling far short,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the anti-poverty group Oxfam.

“I am most outraged by rich governments’ stubborn resistance to welcome refugees,” she said. “What little value, crushingly, have leaders of rich countries placed on the lives of those desperately unfortunate girls and boys trying to find a safe home?”

“Our leaders are failing refugees and ignoring all of us who say Welcome,” wrote Amnesty International.

Hopes of a fast and effective response to the global refugee crisis now rest on a summit convened by Barack Obama in New York, noted correspondents for The Guardian news in a special report.

Leaders wishing to speak at the Obama summit must agree to make substantial new pledges to either take in more refugees, do more to help those who have already arrived or give much greater assistance to host countries in the developing world, where 86 percent of the world’s refugees live.

Obama will co-host the Tuesday summit with the UN’s secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and leaders of some of the countries deemed to have done most for refugees or carrying more than their share of the burden: Jordan, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Ethiopia.

Aid agencies working to save lives, provide health services and housing, showed their frustration with the world leaders by posting powerful images on Twitter and other social media venues.

A photograph of a drowned teenage girl in a body bag has become the latest symbol of the refugee crisis. The image was published by Doctors Without Borders (MSF). An aid worker identified the victim only as: “Female. Age 16-20 years. African.”

A draft Declaration by the world leaders was called “overly vague and lacks a sense of urgency to really improve the lives of migrants and refugees”, the group wrote in a post.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long called the root causes of migration and displacement “a consequence of great inequalities in the distribution of wealth and power.”

Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein offered sobering comments urging world leaders to avoid reducing the deal to self-congratulation.

“The bitter truth is this Summit was called because we have been largely failing,” he said. “It is shameful the victims of abominable crimes should be made to suffer further by our failures to give them protection.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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