Former United Kingdom Foreign Secretary and current President and Chief Executive of International Rescue Committee David Miliband spoke about the importance of standing in solidarity with Syrian refugees at the Honorable T. Linus Hoban Memorial Lecture Tuesday.
The International Rescue Committee is a non-profit humanitarian organization based in New York.
The organization helps 40 countries that experience internal violence and conflict.
The International Rescue Committee provides healthcare, learning and economic support and many special programs designed for women and children.
Around 65 billion people were displaced by conflict in their countries last year, Miliband said, while only one percent of refugees returned home. A majority of the world’s poor were those who were displaced from violence.
Refugees’ displacement can, on average, last from 10 to 20 years, he said.
Miliband said changes need to be made to relieve some of the refugees’ struggles. Cash is important for refugees, he said. Cash gives power to the refugees, gives them choices and brings benefits to the cities they are taking refuge in.
However, less than six percent of the world’s humanitarian aid gives out cash.
“We need a fundamental change in the way humanitarian aid thinks about themselves,” Miliband said.
Miliband said employment for adult refugees and education for children refugees are also important. But, often, cities and countries deny refugees work and do not recognize refugees’ education as a priority, he said.
“A lot of the issues are long-term trends, not short-term fixes,” he said.
Miliband said civil and internal wars partly caused the global refugee crisis.
The amount of wars within states is at a record high, he said. This is partially due to a growing number of weak or fragile states that are unable to meet the needs of its citizens.
Miliband said the international political system is very weak and undivided, causing some of the crisis.
Miliband previously looked at global foreign diplomacy as foreign secretary.
He said the connection of global humanitarian aid with foreign policy was one of the hardest problems in public policy.
This complication was one reason Miliband left his political position for the humanitarian effort.
The refugee crisis also hit Miliband close to home, since both of his parents were refugees.
“It was a way to repay the debt by helping the modern effort,” Miliband said.
Miliband quoted Pope St. Francis during his speech. Before the Pope’s visit to Lampedusa, 1,000 refugees failed to reach the Italian island during their travels over-seas from Lybia.
Pope St. Francis said those 1,000 deaths were evidence of the globalization of indifference.
Miliband – with a chuckle – wondered if he was allowed to argue with the Pope at a Jesuit university, but refuted him anyway. Compassion has never been so high, due to the presence of global media, Miliband said. Instead, he noted a different reason for the lack of effort in the refugee crisis.
“The biggest hurdle is that people think we can’t make a difference, that the individual differences we can all make don’t add up to make a dent in this problem,” he said.
But, Miliband argued this mentality. Many of the people he speaks to can not contribute financially. But, they can still make a difference.
“You can make a contribution locally if you can’t make a financial contribution globally,” Miliband said.
The Hoban Lecture is annually held in the Scranton area. The event is sponsored by The University and the Lackawanna Bar Association. The lecture hosts prominent world figures who are experts in fields of law, government and public affairs. Each year a new topic is discussed at the lecture.