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Thursday, April 18, 2019
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 18 2015 (IPS) - The world’s refugee crisis – triggered mostly by conflicts and persecutions – will continue to be one of the biggest problems facing the United Nations next year.
With almost a million people having crossed the Mediterranean as refugees and migrants so far, 2015 is likely to exceed all previous records for global forced displacement, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned in a new report released Friday.
But 2016 could be even worse — if the Syrian conflict continues unabated and new political trouble spots arise, primarily in the Middle East and Africa.
“As we enter 2016, the world needs to aim for a new global compact on human mobility. Demonizing and scapegoating these people based on their religion, ethnicity or country of origin has no place in the 21st century,” says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The United Nations is appealing for a staggering 20 billion dollars in funds to meet next year’s humanitarian needs — five times the level a decade ago.
But donors have been exceedingly generous, says Ban, “but we will likely enter 2016 with a funding gap of more than 10 billion dollars — the largest ever. “
The increased funds will be needed largely to feed, shelter and provide medical care to millions of refugees fleeing conflict zones, including Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.
But the devastating conflict in Syria, now into its fifth year, has been described as “the main driver of this sea of humanity on the move.”
According to the UN, about 60 million people are now homeless as a result of armed conflict, instability and persecution, and more than 125 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2016.
The 20 billion dollar target for 2016 seems phenomenal in comparison to the UN’s regular budget of 5.57 billion dollars for 2016-2017 and its peacekeeping budget totaling 8.2 billion dollars for 2015-2016.
Since the crisis is expected to continue into 2016, the World Humanitarian Summit meeting in May 2016 in Istanbul is expected to be “a critical moment to address systemic funding problems, and agree on concrete steps to better prepare for and respond to crises.”
The UNHCR study, titled ‘Mid-Year Trends 2015’, says the global refugee total, which a year ago was 19.5 million, had as of mid-2015 passed the 20 million threshold (20.2 million) for the first time since 1992.
Asylum applications were meanwhile up 78 per cent (993,600) over the same period in 2014. And the numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) jumped by around 2.0 million to an estimated 34 million.
A consequence of more refugees being stuck in exile is that pressures on countries hosting them are growing too – something which unmanaged can increase resentment and abet politicization of refugees, the study said.
Despite such risks, the first half of 2015 was also marked by extraordinary generosity: on an absolute basis, and counting refugees who fall under UNHCR’s mandate (Palestinians are under the mandate of the UN Works and Relief Agency or UNRWA), Turkey is the world’s biggest hosting country with 1.84 million refugees on its territory, as of 30 June.
Lebanon meanwhile hosts more refugees compared to its population size than any other country, with 209 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants.
And Ethiopia pays most in relation to the size of its economy with 469 refugees for every dollar of GDP (per capita, at PPP), according to UNHCR.
Overall, the lion’s share of the global responsibility for hosting refugees continues to be carried by countries immediately bordering zones of conflict, many of them in the developing world.
Europe’s influx of people arriving by boat via the Mediterranean is only partly reflected in the report, mainly as arrivals there have escalated in the second half of 2015 and outside the period covered by the report.
Nonetheless, in the first six months of 2015, Germany was the world’s biggest recipient of new asylum claims – 159,000, close to the entire total for all of 2014. The second largest recipient was the Russian Federation with 100,000 claims, mainly people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, according to the report.
Speaking at a high-level event marking the 10th anniversary of the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the secretary-general said the fund was a breakthrough in providing fast and predictable funding for early action at times of global crisis.
Over the past decade, the Fund has been an essential component of the UN’s humanitarian response – and it has enhanced the credibility of the United Nations, he added.
Among the CERF’s key strengths is its flexibility and speed. CERF resources are not earmarked for specific countries or crises, but can be deployed quickly wherever needs are greatest.
“Whether a crisis is sudden or protracted; whether it is in the news or not, CERF funds are allocated only on the basis of need,” Ban noted.
Within 11 hours of the earthquake in Haiti, trucks were unloading life-saving aid. And within 48 hours of Nepal’s recent earthquake, people were receiving timely life-saving assistance.
Since 2011, Ban said, the CERF has allocated more than 200 million dollars to humanitarian efforts in Syria and neighbouring countries. “And the CERF continues to deliver in the face of new challenges.”
Currently, the Fund is one of the earliest and largest supporters of early response in countries such as Ethiopia, Malawi and Honduras that are being affected by the El Niño phenomenon, which is one of the strongest in decades.
The world has changed radically over the past decade. But despite the generosity of donors, the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources available to meet them is growing every year, the secretary-general declared.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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