He­len Clark and Fil­ip­po Gran­di: Lea­ve no re­fu­gee be­hind.

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The world has en­t­e­red an era in which people are being dis­pla­ced at an un­pre­ce­den­ted ra­te. In 2014, con­flict and per­se­cu­ti­on forced 42,500 people a day to flee their ho­mes, ne­ar­ly qua­drup­le the num­ber from 2010. Al­most 60 mil­li­on people are now for­ci­b­ly dis­pla­ced — a cri­sis un­matched sin­ce World War II.

This is un­ac­cep­ta­ble, but it is not in­e­vi­ta­ble. In 1945, the world re­spon­ded to the dead­liest con­flict in hu­man his­to­ry by es­ta­blis­hing the Uni­ted Na­ti­ons. As the heads of two UN re­fu­gee and de­ve­lop­ment agen­cies, the UN De­ve­lop­ment Pro­gram­me and the UN High Com­mis­si­on for Re­fu­gees, we call for the world to re­spond to this mo­nu­men­tal uphea­val by gi­ving people the tools they need to re­build their li­ves. We be­lie­ve that the path for­ward beg­ins with the 2030 Sustainable De­ve­lop­ment Go­als, which the UN, af­fir­ming a pledge to “lea­ve no one be­hind” in the fight against po­ver­ty and ine­qua­li­ty, ad­op­ted un ani­mous­ly last Sep­tem­ber.

The in­ter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty’s cur­rent ap­proach to dis­pla­ce­ment re­li­es main­ly on hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an aid, which pro­vi­des ra­pid, lifesa­ving re­lief whi­le the se­arch for a per­ma­nent so­lu­ti­on is un­der­way.

But so­lu­ti­ons are pro­ving mo­re elu­si­ve than ever. Just 1 per­cent of re­fu­gees we­re able to re­turn ho­me in 2014. The vast ma­jo­ri­ty of tho­se dis­pla­ced spend not days or months in exi­le, but ye­ars or de­ca­des, even ent­i­re life­ti­mes. They risk being left be­hind.

Con­sider So­ma­ya, a third-ge­ne­ra­ti­on re­fu­gee in Ke­nya. De­ca­des ago, her grand­mo­ther fled to the Ha­g­ade­ra re­fu­gee camp to escape the bru­tal con­flict in So­ma­lia. Her mo­ther was born the­re, and so was she. Neit­her of them has set foot outs­ide the fi­ve-squa­re-mi­le (13 squa­re ki­lo­me­ters) camp. They still li­ve out of her grand­mo­ther’s suit­ca­ses, wait­ing for a chan­ce to mo­ve on.

Li­ke So­ma­ya, most re­fu­gees li­ve in the de­ve­lo­ping world. And yet, too of­ten, de­ve­lop­ment or­ga­niza­t­i­ons that could pro­vi­de re­fu­gees with a hand up face in­suf­fi­ci­ent fun­ding and stiff re­gu­la­ti­ons that prevent them from ad­dres­sing re­fu­gees’ nee­ds.

Long-term dis­pla­ce­ment in­flicts pro­found bur­dens on people li­ke So­ma­ya. Re­fu­gees too of­ten face li­mits on their abi­li­ty to work and mo­ve fre­e­ly, ma­king it all but im­pos­si­ble to pro­vi­de for their fa­mi­lies or to cont­ri­bu­te to their host com­mu­nities. They li­ve in lim­bo, with no choice but to re­ly on hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an

The num­ber of re­fu­gees world­wi­de has qua­dru­p­led sin­ce 2010. So­lu­ti­ons are elu­si­ve but that’s no ex­cu­se not to act, ar­gue He­len Clark and Fil­ip­po Gran­di.

aid. Or they are ob­li­ged to seek a li­ving in the in­for­mal eco­no­my, whe­re they risk fal­ling vic­tim to ar­rest, se­xu­al ex­ploi­ta­ti­on, child la­bor, or ot­her abu­ses.

Con­sider ano­ther ex­amp­le: Anas, a 13-yea­rold Sy­rian re­fu­gee in Le­ba­non. His fa­mi­ly can­not sur­vi­ve wi­thout the $5 he earns every day. So, ins­tead of go­ing to school, he sorts lumps of co­al for sa­le as fu­el. Re­fu­gees li­ke Anas strugg­le to ex­er­cise pre­cise­ly tho­se rights — to edu­ca­ti­on, he­alth ca­re, free­dom of mo­ve­ment, and ac­cess to work, land, and hou­sing – that are es­sen­ti­al to es­ca­ping po­ver­ty.

Fi­xing this will re­qui­re po­li­ti­cal and eco­no­mic chan­ges that al­low the de­ve­lop­ment com­mu­ni­ty to pro­vi­de mo­re sup­port. The re­la­ti­ons­hip bet­ween de­ve­lop­ment and dis­pla­ce­ment is cle­ar, and we need to be­gin to con­sider the­se chal­len­ges as are­as of jo­int re­s­pon­si­bi­li­ty.

Lar­ge-sca­le dis­pla­ce­ment strains pu­b­lic re­sour­ces, even in midd­le-in­co­me coun­tries; wi­thout suf­fi­ci­ent outs­ide help, it can un­do ye­ars of pro­gress. Un­til the world gi­ves mo­re and bet­ter sup­port to host coun­tries and the re­fu­gees li­ving the­re, we can ex­pect to pay ever-lar­ger sums for hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an pro­grams that ne­ver end.

But the­re is ano­ther si­de to the co­in. When dis­pla­ced people are al­lo­wed to de­ve­lop their skills and pur­sue their aspi­ra­ti­ons, they crea­te new op­por­tu­nities for growth. This is why de­ve­lop­ment agen­cies must ha­ve mo­re fle­xi­bi­li­ty to ad­dress new cy­cles of po­ver­ty and fra­gi­li­ty — whe­re­ver they ap­pe­ar — be­fo­re they spi­ral out of con­trol.

The ti­me has co­me to dis­card the cli­chéd image of re­fu­gees as pas­si­ve re­ci­pi­ents of aid, sit­ting id­ly with out­stret­ched hands. If any­thing, that image re­flects cir­cum­stan­ces that ha­ve be­en im­po­sed upon re­fu­gees and rein­forced by the world’s in­com­ple­te re­s­pon­se. Re­fu­gees are en­tre­pre­neurs. They are ar­tists. They are te­achers, en­gi­neers, and wor­kers of all ty­pes. They are a rich sour­ce of hu­man ca­pi­tal that we are fai­ling to cul­ti­va­te.

The in­ter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty can no lon­ger af­ford to igno­re so much po­ten­ti­al or to sit by whi­le the most vul­nerable are pus­hed to the mar­gins of so­cie­ty. As news he­ad­lines call at­ten­ti­on to the hu­man costs of the­se tra­ge­dies, we must re­mem­ber that we ha­ve the choice to re­spond with mo­re than just shock.

We can re­ject the eco­no­mic ex­clu­si­on of tho­se who li­ve among us but we­re born so­mew­he­re el­se. We can re­dou­ble our ef­forts to seek po­li­ti­cal so­lu­ti­ons to con­flict and per­se­cu­ti­on. We can em­power hu­ma­ni­ta­ri­an and de­ve­lop­ment part­ners to work to­ge­ther from the mo­ment a cri­sis erupts. In short, we can ho­nor our pledge to“lea­ve no one be­hind.”

He­len Clark heads the Uni­ted Na­ti­ons De­ve­lop­ment Pro­gramm.

Fil­ip­po Gran­di is the UN High Com­mis­sio­ner for Re­fu­gees.

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