Unprecedented. Never done or known before. Unheard of.
65 million people are unable to go home because of war, persecution, terrorism, or other forms of violence. That’s more than the entire population of France. This is unprecedented, and the world stage is now taking steps to solve this global crisis.
Last week the UN General Assembly held two groundbreaking summits on refugees and migrants, where world leaders including President Obama committed to new actions support the displaced and address record numbers of global refugee and migration crises. Heartland Alliance added our voice to those urging policymakers to do more for the world’s most vulnerable refugees and migrants.
In such uncertain times, we recognize the responsibility to stand with and for the marginalized – especially as the numbers mount to unprecedented levels. Here is what we did during the summits:
We pledged our support – and our resources (Download the PDF)
The UN summits focused on world leaders and their governments, pushing our heads of state to act. In response, fifty-two countries pledged billions to support the cause. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were not provided a seat at this table, even though we are on the frontlines of the crisis – and bring our own resources to the table. As a response, Heartland joined the largest alliance of U.S.-based international NGOs, InterAction, in pledging our own privately-raised dollars to the cause. A total of 31 organizations have pledged to commit resources from private donations to bolster funding from government and UN donors so that together our collective effort reaches more people in need.
Heartland Alliance International also became a member of the Call to Action on Gender Based Violence in Emergencies. And we also signed on to a policy statement about the need to better support and empower women and girls in humanitarian crises. We’ve seen first-hand what war and violence does to women, girls, and children – and just how dangerous these times are for them. Just recently we highlighted the story of Aisha, a woman who was kidnapped and trafficked in the Congo – as she said:
“Once we arrived at their camp, the four of us were distributed amongst the men as their new ’wives’. I was taken by the commander.
My days consisted of going to the forest to collect food and tend to their farms. In the evening, I was expected to fulfill all the demands of a wife.
I cannot sincerely express the impact [Heartland Alliance International] has had on my life. Returning to my village I began selling merchandise and gaining profits. I used the interest gained to support my family, to pay school fees for my children and purchase food for the home. I feel confident in myself and proud of my small business.”
These are the dangers that half of the refugee population struggle through. We will continue to serve women like Aisha, and are growing our list of services around the world. In the coming months, we hope to expand safe spaces and counseling services for GBV survivors in places like Lebanon. Right now, demand for these programs outpaces our resources.
We highlighted the need to invest in conflict prevention
We joined an alliance of organizations fighting to ramp up investments in peace building, conflict mitigation, and reconciliation programs. When entrenched wars show no end in sight, these programs can reinvigorate stalled or otherwise unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to find political solutions to the conflicts driving forced displacement (
Just as we have served those affected by decades-long civil war in Colombia, HAI is on the ground and prepared to contribute to peacebuilding efforts as communities rebuild their lives in search of reconciliation and healing. Since 2010, HAI, with the generous support of USAID, has worked with nearly 1,400 men and women whose lives were devastated by the conflict. HAI provides individual and group counseling to Afro-Colombians who are survivors of torture and other forms of severe violence, creating a path for them to heal.
We gathered advocates and service providers in the Midwest
Our own National Immigrant Justice Center led an event about the current U.S. response to the global refugee crisis the same day of the first summit. With panel discussion from some of the top experts in the field, we brought people together to share our collective experiences and better understand the current refugee situation and the personal experiences asylum seekers face.
We Made It Clear And Simple: Human Rights Are Inalienable (Link)
We joined our NGO peers to promote a vision for action and impact coming out of these summits. Keeping it simple, that vision can be distilled down into 3 parts:
(1) Every refugee can access asylum from persecution;
(2) Every refugee will be given the opportunity for a durable solution to his or her plight, to be and feel safe, welcome, and at home, without having to wait years for that solution;
(3) Every refugee, displaced person, and migrant is entitled to the same human rights as everyone else.
Going forward, we will be engaging with the refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers we work with as well as our peer organizations, governments, UN agencies, and our partners on the ground to help translate these commitments into action and impact- in Chicago and throughout the world.
Stay tuned – we will need your help to make sure these promise are followed through. It’s time we all stand #withrefugees