NEW YORK – Today, there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide. That is 21.3 million people who have been driven from their countries by fear of violence or oppression based on race, religion, nationality, politics, or identity. Many live in overcrowded and unsafe camps, often lacking basic necessities, as they wait for some country to grant them asylum.
But even asylum is inadequate to enable refugees to rebuild their lives. Their legal status as refugees helps to protect their human rights in the short term, but it does not entitle them to economic support to meet their longer-term needs. It is time to develop a system that recognizes refugees’ special economic status, in addition to their special legal status.
The underpinnings of such a system are already in place. The World Bank was established in response to the last historic, world-shaking refugee crisis, during World War II. After the war, dozens of countries created the Bank not simply to rebuild Europe, but also to address the needs of those who had been displaced.
In the decades since, the World Bank has helped to finance international development and poverty reduction. And it remains the best platform for quickly and effectively raising money to address pressing global needs. Indeed, it is already working to address the current refugee crisis.