Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), spoke at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Wednesday, November 7, to discuss the current global refugee crisis. Miliband’s nonprofit has helped 27 million people “whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future” last year.
Miliband explained that a refugee is “someone who crosses national boundaries in fear of losing their life and livelihood.” There are over 28 million refugees in the world and another 40 million people internally displaced within their own nations. Refugees are, on average, displaced for 17 years, creating a multigenerational displacement crisis. Miliband further notes that half of all displaced people are children, and most these kids are unable to acquire an education past primary school. Interestingly, most refugees are landing in poor countries and not rich ones.
Miliband attributes this global refugee crisis to four factors, including weak political institutions within unstable countries, inadequate global leadership, clashes within religious communities, and climate change. On the last, he stated that “there is no question that climate change is happening and man-made” and that climate change is a growing factor in the refugee crisis.
Amid the challenges for international organizations during the refugee crisis are the needs to provide education to refugee children, help adult refugees find work, and “welcome refugees to our own shores.” He observed that “Those with least diverse populations are most fearful of diversity.”
Miliband believed that countries should recognize the international legal rights of refugees and provide aid to support refugees and the local populations that accept them. “We can rescue the dignity and hopes of refugees and displaced people. And if we help them, in the process we will rescue our own values.”