Baku, Azerbaijan, June 20
20th June is World Refugee Day, the day proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to be dedicated to refugees across the world, to all persons who were forced to leave their homes by war, conflicts, persecutions and serious violation of human rights, said the article by Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Azerbaijan Furio De Angelis.
There are now more than 65 million persons in this condition: if they were a country, it would be the 22nd nation in the world by population. This “country on the move” has also a dramatic growth rate: 20 new persons per every minute in the world are being displaced by war and persecution, their number has increased by more than 100% in the last 10 years, and there is not sign of abating, there is no light at the end of that tunnel.
World Refugee Day is recognized around the world by governments, refugee organizations and communities as a day of reflection on the reasons that cause refugee flows and renew commitments to their protection and assistance; also as a day to restate the expectation that durable and just political solution will be found to the conflicts, which are always and persistently at the origin of refugee movements and of all the human suffering that these entail.
Therefore, more than anything else, World Refugee Day is the celebration of refugee resilience. It is the day in which we try to understand and visualize the adversity, the challenges and the misery that refugees live throughout their experience: in their homes during conflict, along the routes of displacement, increasingly in control of criminal traffickers, and too often even after arriving in countries where they should find safety and rest and find instead mixed messages: solidarity by many institutions and people, but also hostility and rejection from sectors of the same society.
Why is this happening? What could be some of the key elements of solutions to the present disorder caused by refugee movements? What citizens, institutions, international organization and governments should do to improve today’s dramatic images of children drowning at sea and families scattered in desperation? Four basic areas of international action should be highlighted:
1. Political will must be exercised by all responsible governments to achieve just, durable and compromised solutions to conflicts. As humanitarian crisis are the result of political failures, there can only be political solutions to humanitarian crisis. Citizens must ask their governments, and hold them accountable, to engage transparently and sincerely in a serious quest for peace.
2. Development policies must be designed and implemented with the only objective of serving the country’s communities and in full observance of human rights standards. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the international community in September 2015, are globally accepted as the guiding principles for development, and their observance will dramatically reduce migratory and refugee movements. At the core of the SDGs there is one simple principle: “Leave no one behind”: refugees and displaced persons belong to the societies where they live and they too must benefit from development and progress.
3. Refugee movements must be managed pro-actively and not passively responded to. International solidarity, clear and respected commitments and adequate allocation of resources are the necessary and sufficient ingredients for a global and successful displacement policy. The 2016 New York Declaration offers the opportunity to gather critical mass for a truly global advancement in refugee and migration management. The two Global Compacts that countries will endorse in 2018, one for Migratory movements and the other for Refugee movements, should be the turning point of a new era of international relations with respect to human displacement.
4. Finally, and most importantly, one simple truth must be recognized once and for all: refugees bring with them capacity, skills and resources, the most valuable of which is their eagerness to contribute positively to the society hosting them. They can be of great benefit for the social and human development of the country, as the numerous waves of millions of migrants have contributed in the history of all regions of the world to the progress and the growth of the many societies who receive them.
The above mentioned points are very simple in their formulation, yet very complex in their practical implementation. However, they represent the narrow path the world has to walk through, if some light has to be seen at the end of the tunnel.
Azerbaijan is well positioned to be a frontrunner down that path. Azerbaijan is a welcoming and diverse society, it is home to a multicultural, multi-confessional and modern population with solid roots in the past and an ambitious plan for continuous growth and development.
Azerbaijan has also lived through the tragedy of war and displacement due to the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh; it has endured loss of lives and economic deprivation, yet it has been able to overcome these challenges and raise to become a modern and developed country. Most importantly, Azerbaijan is a country that has done and still doing a lot for the refugees and the persons internally displaced by the conflict, who represent one of the largest internally displaced population in Europe today and have been waiting for too long a durable and just solution to their displacement.
Azerbaijan is a country that can offer safety and opportunities also to refugees fleeing other conflicts in the region or elsewhere, and reach Azerbaijan to seek safety and protection. If allowed to fully integrate in the economic and social fabric of the Azerbaijani society, refugees from distant countries will enrich the country and one day will be proud citizen in their new home.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s work in Azerbaijan is geared towards enhancing internally displaced persons and refugees’ opportunities through programmes of direct financial and social support, while advocating with the Government the improvement of refugee legislation, of integration options and opportunities for all refugees and displaced persons in the country.
UNHCR invites everybody to join the global “Stand #WithRefugees” campaign by signing the online petition available at www.withrefugees.org