The General Assembly of the United Nations is taking place this week in New York. This Wednesday the highlights of the day were talks about climate change and the Paris accord as well as the refugee crisis.
The annual event gathers world leaders together for productive talks about international issues. So the United States took the opportunity to host a summit on the global situation of refugees. The invited countries could attend the summit only if they made a pledge to take in a certain number of refugees.
Progress Regarding Refugees
The US envoy to the United Nations made a statement about the progress that the participants achieved at the summit. There were pledges from dozens of countries in a show of support for the difficult situation that the refugees are in. The plan is for those countries to resettle or otherwise allow the legal admission of refugees to their land.
The countries pledged to help 360,000 refugees in total. That is twice the number of available slots that refugees had available to them last year. Even though last year was a particularly difficult year for the situation of refugees.
Ambassador Samantha Power spoke to the press and said that the number of slots is “still only a fraction” of what is necessary. The real dimensions of the refugee situation are much larger. The pledges by the willing countries, generous as they may be, are not enough to have a major impact.
UNHCR is the UN agency for refugees. According to its assessments, there are still 1.2 million refugees that the agency needs to resettle somehow. The refugees are currently living their lives in temporary, improvised situations, without a clear legal status.
Ambassador Samantha Power said that there are also pledges to support children refugees continue their education. Despite their difficult situation, there are optimistic expectations to raise the number of refugees going to school by 1 million on a global level.
Barack Obama Speaks About the Refugee Crisis
The official statements tried to make the summit look like an event with a lot of international support. However, it is very much a US led effort.
US President Barack Obama spoke at the summit. He told the audience that the refugee situation was a test of the international system that we have in place. Obama described this international system as a system where all countries should share in their collective responsibilities. He continued by drawing attention to the fact that just ten countries are hosting the large majority of refugees.
Barack Obama said that the refugee situation is a symptom of larger failures like “war, ethnic tensions or persecution”.
The president’s speech was meant to impress upon the participants the need to accept a fair share of responsibility for the current refugee crisis. As well as moving the countries into action to accept the refugees and allow them entry into their country.
Obama has also gotten the support of businesses to help with the refugee crisis. Before the summit he met with business leaders who made commitments of over $650 million. The money is going to go towards economically empower the refugees.
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