Lloyd Axworthy on World Refugee Day: 100 Million Displaced a Crisis of Political Will

This World Refugee Day marks a terrible global milestone: more than 100 million people around the world are now forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict, attacks on human rights and, to a growing extent, climate emergencies.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the collapse of Afghanistan’s Western-supported government have dramatically added to displacement happening around the world, from Burkina Faso to Venezuela and dozens of other countries and regions.

As UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi noted, “One hundred million is a stark figure — sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set. This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

Three years ago, when our Council issued A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, the problem was already dire. Council members documented failures to hold government and individual leaders to account for causing displacement, the inability to provide sustainable funding to confront the problem, and neglecting to directly involve displaced persons, especially women and girls, in seeking solutions.

Most importantly, we stressed that the crisis the global community faces is not a refugee or displacement crisis, but a political crisis. It is quite simply a failure of the political will and leadership needed to confront these problems. 

While daunting — more than one percent of the world’s population is now displaced — it is a problem that can be solved through collective action, humanity and empathy to counter the xenophobic impulses of so many of our political leaders.

Our departed honorary chair, friend and colleague Madeleine Albright put it best: “As a refugee myself…I understand how important it is to be received somewhere with respect and a sense that you are not just a problem for everybody, that it’s a human issue, and you are opportunity.”

Author

  • The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy is the chair of the World Refugee Council and one of Canada’s leading voices on global migration and refugee protection. After a 27-year political career, where he served as Canada’s minister of Foreign Affairs and minister of Employment and Immigration, among other postings, Mr. Axworthy has continued to work extensively on human security, refugee protection and human rights in Canada and abroad. He was presented with the Pearson Peace Medal by the Governor General of Canada in May 2017. In his term as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg, Mr. Axworthy initiated innovative programs for migrant and aboriginal youth communities, and has also done a great deal of work on refugee reform as a Richard von Weizsäcker fellow at Germany’s Robert Bosch Academy.