Leave No Refugee Behind

Although the vast majority of refugees spend years in exile, the international community has chosen to address their plight through humanitarian aid, rather than development assistance. The time has come to discard the clichéd image of refugees as passive recipients of aid and to treat them instead as a rich source of human capital.

NEW YORK – 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. Today, as heads of UN refugee and development agencies, 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 unanimously 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% 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.

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