Editor’s Comment

The World’s Refugees are in Desperate Need

Political strife and religious zealotry have provoked tragedies that have forced millions to flee their war-torn nations. This has led to an even greater disaster: a worldwide refugee crisis. Many governments have turned a cold shoulder to the world’s most vulnerable people while the U.N. and nongovernmental aid agencies struggle to keep up, with limited resources at hand.

The Afghan war, the Iraq invasion, the strife that followed the Arab Spring, the disintegration of Libya, and the unending civil war in Syria have all created the largest cohort of victimized and homeless asylum seekers since World War II. By the end of 2013, 51.2 million people had been driven from their homes due to conflict—an increase of six million over the prior year, according to the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The greatest increase came from the war in Syria, which even by 2013 had already driven 2.5 million from the country and displaced 6.5 million internally.

The U.N. has said aid agencies face tremendous challenges in their humanitarian goals, but despite this, the world’s nations have not risen to meet the challenge of the largest refugee crisis in 70 years. Even among the nations of the U.N. Security Council, who theoretically oversee and attempt to mitigate the world’s conflicts, the efforts of some are not proportionate to their wealth, responsibility, or authority.

Moscow may no longer possess the prestige it commanded during the Cold War, but it still exerts a dominant influence on geopolitics, and its economy has recovered from its previous “Second World” status. Russia must take some responsibility for the situation in Syria, which its support for the Assad regime and veto of U.N. action in the conflict has at best failed to help and at worst intensified. Likewise, despite the country’s continued denials, Russian military equipment has been spotted in Eastern Ukraine. Yet in the face of overwhelming culpability, Russia is no more than 29th among donor nations to UNHCR, committing only $2 million to international refugee aid in 2014.

China has risen economically, militarily, and politically to become a leading power in the world; however, its donor profile has lagged behind those of many economically weaker countries. Despite being the world’s second largest economy and holding foreign currency reserves of $3.73 trillion, the country is only 33rd on the donor list, with a paltry contribution of under $1 million—ranking even behind Mexico.

No one can criticize the United States in this regard—which, given its involvement in world conflict, rightfully tops the list with a yearly contribution of over $1.2 billion. Expressed as a percentage of GDP, this amount means that the U.S. gives of its resources nearly 70 times as much as Russia and over 800 times what China gives to support refugees.

Moscow and Beijing enjoy the great privilege of permanent membership in the world’s security decision-making body; their responsibility to those affected by war should be equally great.

— Probir Kumar Sarkar
Executive Editor

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