This article by Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, offers a perspective on the current migration crisis, with reference to Syrian refugees and those displaced by impacts of climate change. A shorter version of the article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mobilizing for a Century of Dislocation
By Peter Laugharn
Nearly 35,000 people flee war or persecution each day. These brave men, women, and children join a record 65 million others — nearly 1 percent of the globe’s population — who can’t return home. Not even World War II uprooted as many people.
Migration will only worsen in the years ahead. Political and economic disorder continue to reign supreme across much of the world — and climate change will soon make life untenable in many communities.
Humanitarian organizations, donors, host countries, and their citizens can mitigate the suffering caused by the coming century of dislocation — but only by cooperating on sustainable development initiatives.
The Syrian civil war is the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. Already, 13.5 million Syrians — more than half the pre-war population — have fled their homes. And the flow of migrants shows no signs of abating.
In our lifetimes, rising sea levels and desertification will force tens of millions to leave their homelands. Widespread flooding, and the resulting economic strain, could displace 15 million people in Bangladesh alone by 2050.
The humanitarian community must better prepare for these unprecedented refugee flows. Its aid distribution system dates to the post-WWII era. Then, most refugees needed donations of food and clothing as they waited out conflicts in camps.
Nowadays, three in four refugees live outside a camp. Nearly nine in ten reside in low- and middle-income nations, often those bordering their home countries. Lebanon, for instance, has taken in 1.5 million Syrians, who now make up a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean nation’s population.
Host governments frequently view these arrivals with suspicion, worrying that they’ll destabilize fragile political systems and take jobs from citizens. So they box refugees out of the labor market and make them dependent on charity or black-market work. Those fleeing the hell of war and disaster find themselves in purgatory — unable to return home but barred from building new lives.
Unfortunately, the current administration is limiting the number of refugees being resettled in the United States and is proposing cuts to our foreign aid budget at a time when we need it most. Instead, our government is turning to other sources of funding, like philanthropy, to fill the gaps.
That’s not sustainable. It’s time for new approaches.
Consider Oxford’s Alexander Betts, who heads up the university’s Refugee Studies Centre. He urges host countries to allow refugees to work, pointing to Uganda as a model. Over 20 percent of refugees in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, “own a business that employs other people, and 40 percent of those employees are nationals of the host country.”
Host nations have a choice. They can either let refugees burden the economy — or contribute to it.
If refugees join the labor force, they’ll inevitably disperse into cities and towns. It’s logistically difficult for aid organizations to deliver food or clothing to these dispersed populations. That’s why David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee — which my organization previously honored with the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize — urges donors to simply give refugees cash.
Cash — which currently accounts for just 6 percent of all humanitarian aid — empowers refugees to buy exactly what they need. IRC studied 90,000 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon who received pre-loaded ATM cards. Families overwhelmingly spent the money on food, water, winter clothing, and shelter. And cash keeps kids in school — “households receiving cash assistance were half as likely to send their children out to work,” according to IRC.
Cash and work permits help refugees contribute to the economy and become partly self-sustaining.
But refugees can’t reach their full potential without an education. Two-thirds of refugee children aren’t in school. Yet less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid was devoted to education in 2016. My organization is working with international nongovernmental organizations, including Save the Children and Theirworld, to demonstrate how education initiatives for the most vulnerable young people are a smart investment for future peace and sustainability. Together, we’re supporting education programs for the children of Syrian refugees close to the epicenter of the crisis.
A long-term vision has been articulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Global Goals and 169 targets for improving lives around the world. By collecting and tracking more data on different aid projects, donors could better identify best practices — and make funding contingent on host nations adopting those practices. Donors could also preemptively identify areas where environmental migrants will likely flee — and work with local governments to make sure they’re able to handle large migration inflows.
Regular Americans can encourage this shift by making financial donations to organizations that implement modern approaches to humanitarian aid. They can also volunteer locally to support refugees who are beginning their new lives in the United States.
Conflict, a lack of economic opportunity, and climate change will make this a century of dislocation. By quickly adopting new approaches, aid agencies, donors, and host nations — including the United States — can turn the challenges of mass migration into opportunities.
(Photo by Jodi Hilton/IRC) Reprinted with permission of The Hilton Foundation
July 30th marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, as recognized by the United Nations since 2013. Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transporting of persons between countries, typically for labor or sexual exploitation purposes, and is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It is the 3rd most lucrative illegal trade practice in the world. Human trafficking is an issue that crosses borders, leaving a trace in every country on the globe. 21 million people around the world are estimated to be trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation; 71% of them are women and girls, while one-third of them are children.
The global community recognizes this day in order to raise awareness for the victims of human trafficking and promote their rights as the fight to put an end to this illicit trade continues. Hilton Prize Laureates ECPAT International (ECPAT) and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) are among the organizations at the forefront of this battle. In honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Hilton Prize Coalition would like to shine a light on the work these organizations do.
Leading the effort for 25 years, ECPATis the only international NGO that is dedicated exclusively to advocating against the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT began in Thailand but has since grown to have a presence in 88 countries. A recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013, ECPAT provides crucial research, programs, and campaigns that contribute to their vision of a world without child sex trafficking.
Tourism creates a hotspot for child sex-trafficking, and as it increases globally, it puts more of the world’s children at risk. ECPAT leads initiatives in raising awareness of this massive problem and forging strategic partnerships to combat it. This July in Madrid, ECPAT served as one of the co-hosts for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Transition Meeting on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT), demonstrating their expertise and global leadership on the subject. This meeting placed pressure on the global community to prioritize the protection of children in lieu of the increase in tourism and its positive correlation with sex trafficking. Reports that resulted from the meeting are available here.
SOS Children’s Villages
2002 Hilton Humanitarian Prize winner SOS is dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children. The organization provides care, education, health services, and emergency response for children who have lost their families or are at risk of losing them, with a priority on ensuring the rights of children and giving them a safe space just to be kids.
Displacement in areas such as Syria puts millions of children on the move and can often lead to the separation of families. Children in such areas under the pressures of conflict or socio-economic stress are at higher risk of becoming victims of child sex-trafficking. SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Response programs bring shelter and safety to vulnerable children in areas experiencing violence; these measures protect children who have lost everything from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
June 20th marks World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations. This year the world has reached unprecedented numbers of people fleeing their homes for fear of persecution or violence. On this day, the international community honors and recognizes the profound struggle of those who have no choice but to abandon their homes and face a future of impermanence and instability. As the refugee crisis persists, many agencies fight to advocate for and provide humanitarian assistance to the voiceless.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of innocents.” In honor of World Refugee Day, below are some more highlights of work being done by Coalition member organizations to respond to the crisis.
Women for Women International (WfWI)
The winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2006, WfWI leads the world in empowering marginalized women in regions plagued by humanitarian emergencies. They harness the skills of women and provide them with the necessary resources to support themselves and their families, promoting community development.
In the context of the refugee crisis, WfWI offers invaluable resources to women and their families around the world. Programs include mental health counseling to women who have suffered the trauma of being forced to leave their homes and who often take on the leadership role for their families. WfWI also has a strategic partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, which have been long been affected by displacement. Programs under this partnership combine their areas of expertise to teach women useful skills that help create economic opportunities for them as they search for stability in an unfamiliar place.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The IRC received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1997, and has been a global leader in response to humanitarian crises for 83 years. In regions all over the world, the IRC provides best-in-class aid, promoting safety, health care, education and economic development for people affected by disasters and conflicts.
One recent initiative illustrates the power of collaboration and technology in the response to the refugee crisis. The IRC has recently partnered with Air BnB, the popular home rental service, in the creation of their “Open Homes” platform. This philanthropic endeavor will allow the IRC to connect refugees with Air BnB volunteers around the world who are willing to temporarily open their homes to refugees—for free. Temporary housing will then give the IRC time to resettle the refugees in a more permanent home.
Stay tuned for more stories about Coalition members as they continue to lead efforts to alleviate the suffering of refugee populations around the world.
Photo: Syrian women from a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley plant seeds in a local farmer’s field. (Steve Connors)
Amid the towering reconstruction of today’s Beirut stand the war-ravaged buildings of the Lebanese civil war. Once beautiful homes such as this one on Damascus Street – the front line during the fighting of 1975 to 88 – serve as an almost sculptural testimony of the price, the folly, and the pity of war.
Since the middle of the last century Lebanon has seen more than its fair share of violence, tragedy and misery. Bookended by mass influxes of people fleeing from regional conflicts have been years of devastating civil war followed by invasion and occupation by foreign powers. The 1990’s through to 2007 saw a brief period of stability, during which the country was able to invest in reconstruction, filling the skyline with modern apartment blocks and business towers. But as protest led to unrest and violence in 2011, neighbouring Syria descended into civil war, triggering a regional conflict for domination and turning the country into a cockpit of regional and geo-political tensions.
As tens or hundreds of thousands died, millions of Syrians fled into neighbouring countries seeking refuge from the escalating violence, desperate to secure an increasingly tenuous grip on their survival. At the time of writing, the United Nations estimates that one and a half million Syrian refugees live in tiny Lebanon. The Lebanese government claims there are more than two million, a figure lent credibility by the author’s visits to camps, in which some thirty percent of refugees remain unregistered with the UN. Confirmation of that number would mean an increase of fifty percent in the population of Lebanon.
In 2015 with the country’s infrastructure and patience stretched well beyond the government’s capacity to cope, and with international assistance cut to levels below those necessary to sustain life, the official border crossings from Syria were closed to refugees. But they still come, desperately crossing the dangerous – often mined – mountain paths to reach safety.
Some of the people, if they have the resources, rent apartments in Beirut, Tripoli or other towns. Some settle in the already teeming Palestinian camps established after 1948 – the Badaawi camp in Tripoli is now stretched beyond capacity by an estimated 70,000 Syrians living in tiny rented rooms. This, in a one square kilometer area occupied by eighteen thousand Palestinians. But the overwhelming majority of refugees are eking out an existence in the Bekaa valley, at the foot of the mountains that form the frontier between Lebanon and Syria.
Syrian women from a nearby refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley planting seeds in a local farmer’s field.
Tens of thousands of families living in the squalid conditions of temporary shelter are scattered up and down the valley floor, the only services provided by UN agencies and NGOs with scant resources and funding.
With wholly inadequate daily allowances, many of the refugees there are forced to cope with food insecurity on top of the misery and indignity of their everyday lives. Unable to afford the cost of registration with the Lebanese authorities, most refugees are unable to pass through the many checkpoints on the roads leading out of the valley so cannot move around the country. In an effort to feed their families the only solution for them is to seek casual labour in the valley’s fields, where local landlords – some of whom have smuggled the refugees into the country in the first place, and put them to work as repayment of their debt – are only too eager to exploit the opportunity for cheap labour. The going rate for five hours of planting under a baking sun is four US dollars.
With the labour market flooded by desperate workers – the cheapest and most employable of whom are women and children – wages for Lebanese workers have plummeted, and tensions between local people and the refugees have risen to dangerous levels. Increasingly, whole camps are forced to move to other parts of the valley because of violence or the threat of violence as the war next door drags on, and the tolerance of the hosts wears progressively thin.
The Syrian war has no end in sight, and whomever one asks in Lebanon, whether they are Lebanese, Syrian or the foreign nationals working with the overstretched humanitarian organisations, the belief is that the refugee problem in the country is of such a chronic nature that it will severely test the peace that the country has only so recently been able to enjoy.
This earthquake in Nepal and the ongoing efforts to rebuild were the focus of the Hilton Prize Coalition’s first production under the Storytelling Program. Below is a recap of some of the stories from the past year that have helped us think about effective approaches to disaster preparation, as well as some updates on the work being done today.
FILM: On Shifting Ground
The pilot project highlighted six member organizations that were among those who mobilized in response to the earthquake: BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, HelpAgeInternational, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. The resulting film, “On Shifting Ground,” has been shown around the world to initiate dialogue around rethinking approaches to disaster response and ways to build community resiliency. Click here to view the film.
Through the production of the film, the organizations gained greater familiarity with one another’s capacities in the region and formed a framework for collaboration that continues to this day. In March 2017, more than 10 organizations met in Kathmandu to establish protocols, building on the lessons learned and their collective experiences in the sector. Read more in this blog post by the Coalition’s Collaboration Coordinator in Nepal, Sumnina Shrestha.
BLOG SERIES: Voices from Nepal
Director Steve Connors, along with members of Storytelling crew, shared insights about their experiences during the February 2016 filming process and beyond, highlighting especially the collaborations that have since taken root.
We were also pleased to learn about BRAC’s ELA program in Nepal that is empowering girls today, in this blog post written by Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Sheetal Tuladhar.
VIDEOS: Leading Thoughts
Hilton Prize Laureate organizations recognize how critical preparation and collaboration between organizations are to effective disaster preparation. Here are two clips from the “Leading Thoughts’ series that address how these played out in Nepal. Click on the links or watch them on the Story Wall.
Sumnima Shrestha is the Communication and Resource Mobilization Manager with Heifer International – Nepal. She currently serves as Collaboration Coordinator for the Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal. Sumnima holds more than 9 years of experience in the development sector, especially in advocacy, networking and resource mobilization, program development, project management, community empowerment and entrepreneurship. Here, Sumnima reflects on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP) workshop held on March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu.
Hilton Laureates in Nepal Join Hands for Disaster Preparedness and Response
by Sumnima Shrestha
Getting different organizations and people together on one platform, and building a common understanding among them is a challenging part of any coalition. The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal is unique in itself. Coalition member organizations are working in diverse sectors with varied missions ranging from income and food security to disability and health. They have fascinating stories of their own, their interests are different, and above all, they are busy. When I became Collaboration Coordinator under the Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program, I had to overcome the challenge of making myself and others motivated and comfortable. I took this as an opportunity and met with each of the members, learned about their interests and worked to define one common goal to achieve greater collective impact for the world’s most vulnerable people.
A common footprint manifested by each of the Coalition members was their involvement in relief and response activities during the April 2015 Nepal mega-earthquake. Though disaster relief is not the primary mission of all of these organizations, they moved out of their comfort zones and brought extraordinary results towards relief and recovery, benefiting thousands of people. Based on the lessons learned by the members and their interest to rise up during humanitarian crises, the need of a joint plan for future disaster preparedness and response was realized. A workshop on “Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP)” was designed with objectives to understand disaster preparedness and emergency response as an integral part of development, and to develop joint response plans for working together in future natural disasters.
A total of 18 participants from 10 Coalition member organizations attended the workshop March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu. The theoretical sessions built capacity of the participants on disaster management cycles, preparedness and response, a vulnerability assessment tool for preparedness, and linkages with development interventions they are currently implementing. Phanindra Adhikari from CVICT, an IRCT member organization, described the event as “a wonderful experience. I had opportunity to gain knowledge as well as share my learning.”
The sessions were enriched by stories and experience-sharing of the participants. Said Sheetal Tuladhar of BRAC, “Sharing experiences of participating organizations was the most valuable part of this workshop…being a beginner in the development and humanitarian sectors, it was especially valuable to learn these concepts and match them with organizational experiences.” Moreover, the group discussion on institutional mechanisms of disaster preparedness was eye-opening to the participants. The workshop focused on developing objectives of joint disaster preparedness and concluded with an official response plan of the Coalition. A task force comprising of BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, and SOS Children’s Villages was formed for completing this plan.
The 2-day workshop with networking and team-building activities helped to strengthen these formal and informal connections, as well as personal relationships among Coalition members. One of the participants commented, “This workshop provided a platform for networking with such good organizations and I also got to learn more about them. This helped me for future collaborations, and I will definitely work towards it.”
Without a doubt, this workshop helped to establish unity in diversity. The beauty of this Coalition is that there is no competition between its members. Each are working in individual themes that are not overlapping with each other; integrating these themes results in holistic development. The Storytelling Program pilot advanced this collaboration and I am happy to be a part of this journey.
All over the world, people living with mental illness can face issues such as inadequate healthcare, stigma against disability, and lack of education, which contribute to their disenfranchisement and vulnerability to inhumane treatment. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), people living with serious mental illness have a life expectancy that is 10-20 years shorter than average. They are not only ostracized by their communities, but are likely to be discriminated against for employment, education, civic engagement, and basic necessities such as food and shelter. Without access to employment and basic needs, certain populations of people with mental illness live in extreme cases of poverty and cannot access the appropriate resources for help.
At the forefront of the work to empower men, women and children living with mental illness are Clubhouse Internationaland Fountain House. These organizations were jointly awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2014 for their dedication to providing opportunities and recovery services for men, women, and children living with mental illness. With more than 340 clubhouses in 320 countries, including the United States, Clubhouse International and Fountain House have helped over 100,000 people overcome the challenges of unemployment, abuse, and isolation.
Founded in 1948 in New York City, Fountain House was the first Clubhouse established. The organization now serves over 1,300 members through community mental health programs that are based on the “Clubhouse” working community model that it pioneered. This Clubhouse model is distinguished from other programs that serve people with mental illness by its core dependence on the voluntary participation of its members. Members play a critical role in the daily operations of the organization. The opportunity to live, work, and learn within a community and environment of mutual support empowers members to make progress towards achieving their employment and educational goals. As a template for Clubhouse organizations all over the world, Fountain House continues to be an example for organizations focusing on mental health in leadership development, education, advocacy, and research on the integration of people with mental illness into society.
Recently, Fountain House partnered with WHO to establish a series of guidelines and best practices to extend and improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Resources produced under this partnership include articles and reports, as well as upcoming events around the subject of excess mortality in persons living with serious mental illness. These guidelines will be implemented by governments and health care professionals around the world. Read more about this initiative here.
The growing number of Clubhouses around the world demonstrates that people with living mental illness have a meaningful place in society, and deserve the right to education, employment, and stability. Clubhouse International does not define their programming as treatment, but a partnership where people reclaim their futures in a supportive, recovery-based community. Clubhouse International believes in the possibility for a time where “there will one day be clubhouses in the cities and towns of every country in the world.” In order to obtain that vision, Clubhouse International developed a program model operating on standards proven to be effective in its implementation all over the world.
The Clubhouse model is grounded in a philosophy that has high expectations for its members with the understanding that community engagement is an important addition to psychiatric and medical treatment. Through local businesses, Clubhouse provides paid employment for its members, and offers educational and social programming that promotes members’ sense of self-worth, confidence, and purpose.
Clubhouse International/Fountain House and the Hilton Prize Coalition
Recently, Clubhouse International participated in a Monitoring & Evaluation capacity building survey led by PATH under the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models program, along with BRAC, Casa Alianza/Covenant House, HelpAge International, and Landesa. The purpose of the survey was to inform the Coalition’s monitoring and evaluation strategy, and to identify opportunities to leverage the member organizations’ capacity building initiatives.
In addition to Clubhouse International’s role in the Collaborative Models program, President Kenn Dudek of Fountain House was featured in the Coalition’s Leading Thoughtsseries under the its Storytelling Program. This series features leaders of Hilton Prize Laureate organizations sharing lessons learned from their experiences in global development and humanitarian aid. During his interview, Dudek describes how people with mental illness are treated as an illness rather than a person with an illness, and shares how the Clubhouse model pioneered by Fountain House is one that stresses empowerment and advocating for the agency of people often left unheard due to the inequalities and stigmas towards mental illness in current health institutions. Watch the video here.
On November 17, 2016, attendees of the Independent Sector conference viewed a screening of “On Shifting Ground,” the short documentary film produced by the Hilton Prize Coalition about six leading organizations in Nepal that mobilized in response to the 2015 earthquake.
Presented by the director of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, Steve Connors, the film screening was followed by a Q&A session with the audience, which was comprised of leaders and practitioners from organizations across the charitable sector. Questions led to a lively discussion about the use of storytelling as a means of catalyzing collaboration between participants in the humanitarian and development sectors. The discussion also touched on the potential of storytelling to draw attention to the need for preparedness work and the role of corporate engagement and multi-sectoral partnerships in funding disaster response.
This fall, the Hilton Prize Coalition hosted events in New York City and London at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), respectively. Both events engaged Coalition member organizations and other prominent voices from the humanitarian aid and international development communities in discussions of lessons learned from the Storytelling Program in Nepal, most notably around collaboration and disaster resiliency and response, following a screening of the Coalition-produced documentary film “On Shifting Ground.”
In his introduction to the film at CGI, Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, spoke to the compassion, collaboration and smart solutions exemplified in the work of the Coalition and its member organizations – a sentiment that was echoed by discussion participants, along with a call to continue to build on what has already been accomplished in the sector. Themes of preparedness and community resilience, collaboration, and storytelling were also raised in the course of the conversation and were carried forward at the event at ODI as well.
(Peter Laugharn, center right, introduces “On Shifting Ground” to attendees at CGI side event)
The panel discussion at ODI, moderated by Christina Bennett, Head of Programme, Humanitarian Policy Group, featured panelists Steve Connors, Director, HPC Storytelling Program; Laurie Lee, Chief Executive, CARE International UK; Aleema Shivji, UK Executive Director, Handicap International; and Sheetal Tuladhar, Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, BRAC USA, who spoke to trends and challenges encompassing collaboration in the sector, as well as the impact of the Storytelling Program.
The idea of the Storytelling Program as a powerful tool to encourage partnership and create action plans for collaboration was reiterated in both panelist and audience member remarks. As Aleema Shivji said, “the process of telling the story for the film allows us to reflect,” adding “it’s these conversations you have in country, these relationships you build in country, which help you to collaborate better in the longer term.”
Click here to view the full discussion from the Overseas Development Institute event that was held on October 24.
(Panel from Left – Aleema Shivji, Laurie Lee, Christina Bennett and Steve Connors. Sheetal Tuladhar joined via videolink from Kathmandu.)