The Anglican Communion’s Assistant Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, The Revd Glen Ruffle, recently attended the Global Refugee Forum. He writes:
One hundred and fourteen million people – that's more than live in Egypt and almost as many as are in Japan – are refugees or displaced. Ninety percent of the world's refugees are in just 40 countries. Seventy five percent of the world's refugees are being hosted by low and middle-income states, yet most financing goes to upper-middle income states. Just 4% of funding is going to countries of refugee origin.
With these statistics ringing in our ears, the Global Refugee Forum began in Geneva.
Held over 13–15 December, with side-events and build-up events beforehand, the Global Refugee Forum was arranged by the UN's Refugee agency, UNHCR, which gathered the world's states, along with NGOs, churches, faith organisations, and refugees themselves, to discuss the situation and what can be done.
The number of wars across the world is at a decades-level high; climate change is destroying agricultural land; famine and drought is increasing. Unless we invest in addressing these root causes, the numbers of refugees will continue to increase dramatically. Many will lose 20 years of their lives in government processing and relocating before they can properly settle and move forwards.
The sad fact is that UNHCR is still waiting for $400 million of funding promised by the world's states, yet never delivered. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, still host to more than half a million Syrian refugees, has only received 23% of the money promised to help. States can also work smarter: investing in much-need conflict-prevention measures, rather than dealing reactively, and with much greater expense, with every new crisis.
Anglicans, and Christians more broadly, will continue helping refugees with or without state or UN involvement, but it was important to place on the UN map, and to make the world know, that the Anglican Communion's churches are out there, doing the work, and often doing so on minimal budgets without support.
Provinces from around the Anglican Communion contributed to making pledges of what we hope to do over the next four years. Canada pledged to help resettle refugees; Tanzania pledged to advocate for refugees and ensure they receive proper care and have access to things like Savings Groups to build a future. The Province of Alexandria's Diocese of Egypt pledged to give holistic care via Refuge Egypt to help with integration of the refugees flooding into Egypt. The Church of England's Diocese in Europe has numerous projects, led by local churches across the continent, ranging from supporting refugees and advocating for them in Calais through to the distribution of aid in Bucharest.
The Episcopal Church pledged to advocate for the goals of UNHCR, support refugee resettlement and continue its refugee care. And the wider Anglican Communion pledged to place the care of refugees on the agenda at high-level meetings, to make sure Provinces discuss what they are doing and look at collaboration, and also to support the mental health of refugee children and to help develop faith-sensitive care.
States need to turn their pledges into action, deliver the money they promised and invest more seriously in conflict prevention. Beyond that, we hope to see greater collaboration between states, UN agencies and faith groups already doing the work to enable more effective delivery of support to those most in need. People of faith are often those on the front lines responding to crises and have the local trust and influence to begin to identify and address root causes. Strengthening this collaboration will be a focus of our work in the years to come.
It is not too late to add pledges from the Anglican Communion. If you want to explore a pledge, contact [email protected]