December 16, 2019
FILE – Syrian displaced families, who fled violence after the Turkish offensive in Syria, sit at a refugee camp in Bardarash on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq, Oct. 25, 2019.
By Lisa Schlein | VOA News
GENEVA – More than 2,000 government, U.N., and business leaders as well as representatives from civil society
and humanitarian agencies are gathering in Geneva to attend the first-ever Global Refugee Forum.
The three-day event, which opens Monday, aims to generate new approaches and long-term commitments to help refugees and the communities that host them.
Organizers of the Forum will be rolling out the red carpet for heads of State from Germany, Turkey, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Somalia as well as other prominent individuals who will be arriving for this seminal event.
Much is at stake. More than 70 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced by war, conflict and persecution. Among them are over 25 million refugees, who have fled across international borders and are unable to return to their homes.
The U.N. refugee agency says more than two thirds of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2,7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million), and Somalia (0.9 million). It says the latest figures show Turkey has hosted the largest number of refugees, with 3,7 million, mainly those who have fled Syria.
The UNHCR says it hopes this gathering this week in Geneva will prove to be a game-changer in the way refugees and the countries and communities that host them are treated and supported.
UNHCR spokesman, Babar Baloch, told VOA the world’s piecemeal approach in dealing with displacement and refugee affairs has to change.
“This is bringing everyone together at the same place, on the same table. But also trying to work out a way forward in terms of how we deal with displacement issues. It is a clear call of responsibility sharing,” he said.
Baloch said everyone at all levels of government, development, financial, civil and other sectors of society has to take responsibility and play a role in caring for the well-being of refugees.
“It is about changing policies toward refugees. It is about responsibility sharing with the world’s largest refugee hosting nations like pledging more places for resettlement. But it is also changing policies including refugees in education, in health services and other sectors where they can benefit like other people,” he said.
The private sector also has an increasingly important role to play in responding to the growing needs of refugees.
The UNHCR reports more than 100 companies and foundations, including big global corporations such as IKEA and Lego are attending the Forum. It says these enterprises are set to make pledges around jobs, finance and other assistance.