15 April 2016

Refugee Crisis about Solidarity, Not Just Numbers, Secretary-General Says at Event on Global Displacement Challenge

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on “Forced Displacement:  A Global Challenge”, in Washington, D.C., today:

Thank you.  I am extremely pleased to be among such a distinguished group and to be focusing on a topic that is tied to so many challenges in our world today.

We are facing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time.  Above all, this is not just a crisis of numbers; it is also a crisis of solidarity.

Last month, President [Jim] Kim and I visited the Middle East region, including Jordan and Lebanon.  We saw thousands of refugees.  We heard their stories.  I was deeply moved, especially by the dreams and resolve of the young people.

Half the world’s refugees are children.  I myself was once an internally displaced person.  As a child in war-torn Korea, I saw my village destroyed.  My family and others were forced to flee our homes.  We survived on food and medicine from UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund].  We studied with textbooks provided by UNESCO [United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization].  And of course, the troops of many nations secured our freedom while fighting under the United Nations flag.  The United Nations was our lifeline and beacon of hope.  Today, I am determined that the United Nations and the international community does everything in its power to help refugees everywhere.

I would make three quick points.  First, leaders across Europe, and throughout the world, must show greater solidarity, not just through relief, but through resettlement and other legal pathways.  Refugees have a right to asylum — not bias and barbed wire.  When managed properly, accepting refugees is a win for everyone.  Refugees are famously devoted to education and self-reliance.  They bring new skills and dynamism into aging workforces.  Demonizing them is not only morally wrong, it is factually wrong.

Second, we must recognize that today’s internal displacement and refugee crises are signs of deeper challenges.  Too many countries — and even whole regions — are trapped in a cycle of conflict, violence and poverty.  From Syria to Afghanistan to South Sudan, we need to resolve the wars that force people to flee.

Third, that means addressing the deeper roots of conflict:  insecurity, poor governance, political exclusion, social and economic inequity.  Next month, I am convening the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  This will provide a platform to put a focus on root causes and prevention, to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development assistance, and to improve our global response to forced displacement.

That will fuel much-needed momentum for the United Nations Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants on 19 September.

I strongly welcome the discussions here on forced displacement and development, including the document to be tabled at the Development Committee of the World Bank Group.  All of these are welcome signals.  We must respond to a monumental crisis with monumental solidarity.

For information media. Not an official record.