UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons

‘Globalization of indifference’

The world should resettle refugees in greater numbers and better time

By Dennis Gruending


The world still faces a massive crisis over forcibly displaced people. In 2015, there were more than 65 million — the most since the Second World War. And half were under the age of 18. About 24 million of these people have fled their countries and are counted by the United Nations as refugees. A much larger number, 41 million, are internally displaced, forced to flee their homes but remain within the borders of their countries. In Syria, for example, 6.6 million people are internally displaced, which represents 30 percent of the population.

This is a human-induced tragedy driven by a variety of wars and armed conflicts, yet the international response has been callously inadequate. The UN aid appeal for Syrian refugees is only 49 percent funded, which is better than the 19 percent funding for South Sudan and the 22 percent for Yemen. Speaking to similar issues in 2013, Pope Francis blamed them on “the globalization of indifference.”

Of course, world leaders say that they’re working on it. There were two refugee summits in New York City this month. One coincided with a meeting of the UN General Assembly. The second was convened by U.S. President Barack Obama and included 50 countries, including Canada. But the UN event was mostly talk and no action. Rather than providing the immediate financial pledges, the diplomats could only agree to keep talking about future commitments. The Obama summit, meanwhile, was a “pay-for-play” event. Only those countries that were prepared to put up some cash were invited. They pledged an added $4.5 billion for UN appeals and humanitarian groups for 2016. At the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier announced that Canada would increase humanitarian assistance this fiscal year by 10 percent, to a total of $752 million.

Regarding refugees and displaced people, Obama insisted that “all countries ought to share in our collective responsibilities.” That’s because developing world countries host 86 percent of UN-designated refugees while the world’s six wealthiest countries host less than nine percent. Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of five million, accommodates a million displaced people accounting for more than 20 percent of its population. Japan, on the other hand, admitted just 19 refugees in 2015.

Trudeau received applause at the UN when he reported that Canada had accepted almost 31,000 Syrian refugees since last year. The government said it intends to resettle a total of 56,000 refugees — of whom about 25,000 will be Syrians — in 2016. An estimated 18,000 overall will be sponsored by faith groups and other organizations.

Without a doubt, Canada should resettle refugees in greater numbers and provide even more humanitarian assistance. But the most pressing need is to have competing groups and nations agree to stop fighting and disarm before recreating governments that will support transparency, accountability and respect human rights. It’s not impossible. After all, the recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC rebels ended a protracted internal conflict that forcibly displaced millions of their own.


Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

Enclaves of the elderly

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: A shoulder to lean on

by Observer Staff

Sheima Benembarek was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Morocco and moved to Canada in 2005. In 2015, she relocated to Toronto. At first, the city seemed so much bigger, impersonal — and even threatening — until a fateful encounter in the subway one day.

Promotional Image

Faith

January 2017

Presbytery turns down bid to halt Vosper hearing

by Mike Milne

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

February 2017

An anatomy of hate

by Douglas Tindal

It’s on the rise everywhere. The writer explores our most troubling emotion and asks how we might overcome it.

World

February 2017

Many faces, one humanity

by Wade Davis

The words and photographs of the Canadian author and explorer capture the richness — and fragility — of global cultures and rituals

Society

January 2017

The new agrarians

by Lois Ross

In the next 15 years, almost half of Canadian farms will change hands. Meet seven millennials who view agriculture as a career — and moral calling.

Faith

March 2016

The Walrus Talks Spirituality

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image