Trends in the Refugee Crisis: Tips for Smart Funders

Today's post was written by Regine A. Webster, Vice President at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The organization aims to transform the field of disaster philanthropy by providing educational, fund opportunities and strategic guidance to increase donor effectiveness throughout the lifecycle of disasters. In this piece, Ms. Webster provides an overview of the current refugee crisis with an eye on what smart funders are doing to achieve greater impact.

Trends in the Refugee Crisis: Tips for Smart Funders
By Regine A. Webster

[ref-u-gee: noun  A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence.]

The global refugee crisis has continued to grow, and more than 65 million people are forcibly displaced around the world. More than half of those refugees come from three countries: Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).

The United Nations Refugee Agency notes that a record 34,000 people a day, or roughly 24 people a minute, are displaced from their homes by conflict and violence daily. Children make up 51 percent of the world’s refugees. The organization lists three main reasons:

  • Conflicts that cause large refugee outflows, like Somalia and Afghanistan – now in their third and fourth decade respectively – are lasting longer.
  • Dramatic new or reignited conflicts and situations of insecurity are occurring more frequently. While today’s largest is Syria, wars have broken out in the past five years in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic, while thousands more people have fled raging gang and other violence in Central America.
  • The rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War, leaving a growing number in limbo.

As stated by UNHCR, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.” This comes as we enter the seventh year of the Syrian civil war. And, at the same time that the world is witnessing four countries tumble into famine. In effect, we are not just witnessing the largest displacement, but rather, it is the largest human displacement coupled with the largest number of food insecure people across the globe since World War II. If that fact is not enough to stop you in your tracks, then I am not sure what could.

And yet, remaining complacent is not an option. Doing nothing is not an option.

To make a real difference, I recommend that your organization look to follow in the footsteps of smart funders who are taking the following actions:

  • Educate yourselves about the crisis. Funders are learning about effective actions taken by other members of the U.S. funder community, researching what they can DO to make a difference, and working to understand the refugee journey. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has authored a series of resource guides that support this investigative effort. CDP is also always available for a phone conversation to help you and your organization craft a strategy to support the global refugee crisis.
  • Give your time, talent, and resources. Smart funders are working outside of normal bounds by volunteering locally for a refugee resettlement organization (or one of their local partner organizations like a food bank). They are also lending their legal, financial, or computer expertise to local resettlement organizations or national NGOs. Lastly, smart funders are investing their own personal dollars or recommending organizational investments to finding solutions to the refugee crisis or providing life saving services to refugees and internally displaced persons globally.
  • Share and discuss. Smart funders are talking about the refugee crisis with their work colleagues and friends to let them know what they are reading, how they are working to help mitigate suffering or resolve the crisis, and how they are investing their dollars (or recommending institutional dollars be channeled) for good.
  • Be a champion. Smart funders are paying careful attention to the proposed changes to the federal budget. The proposed budget cuts 31 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budgets. It also cuts the U.S. Refugee Admissions budget by 11 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services Refugee and Entrant Assistance budget by 31 percent. All told, more than $1 billion dollars in cuts to programs that not only help the world's most vulnerable, both at home and abroad, but help preserve our national security interests around the world. As it pertains to these budgetary issues and welcoming refugees, smart funders are making calls, and sending letters or emails to members of Congress. According to Georgetown Professor Emeritus and CDP Advisory Council member, Susan Martin, members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are being asked by smart funders to:
  1. Provide full funding to organizations that aid and protect refugees and internally displaced persons.
  2. Maintain robust levels of refugee admissions so that the US can continue to provide much needed leadership with regard to refugee resettlement.
  3. Ensure that US asylum and temporary protection policies protect refugees who are already in the United States from return to life threatening situations at home.

I started this post with the definition of a refugee - A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence. Imagine packing one bag per person as you are forced, by fear or famine, from your home. I urge you to read that definition out loud – make it real to you, make it real for your work, make it real for your community.

Links and Additional Resources:

(Photo by Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps, courtesy of CDP)

 

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