On Tuesday, President Obama and United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-Moon hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, joining representatives from Germany, Sweden, Jordan, Mexico, Ethiopia and Canada amongst others in order to tackle issues surrounding the largest displacement of people since the Second World War.
This summit follows a previous event that had taken place earlier in the day used to garner support from private sector capital in addressing the current refugee crisis.
Aside from commitment from the private sector, great strides have been made securing monetary contributions from the governments of nations themselves, including:
– Four countries pledging ten times the figure they had committed in 2015.
– Eleven nations doubling their financial contributions compared to the previous year.
– Eighteen countries committing their involvement in UN-backed Refugee resettlement programs.
– Seven countries offering to resettle ten times the number of asylum-seekers than they did in 2015.
Aside from resettlement, education was also seen as a key pillar of the summit, with seventeen countries pledging monetary support in the construction of new classrooms, hiring and training of teachers, modern textbooks and curriculums that had previously been hindered by informal and often theological curriculum. Moreover, pledges on education were backed by legal guarantees of allowing refugees to find lawful employment in their new country of residence. Fifteen delegations agreed to further assist in expanding policies offering assistance in starting new businesses and to nurture their ability to work legally without hindrance.
Most notably, the event was one of the last to be hosted by the White House under Barack Obama’s administration, and such an event can be viewed as a ‘legacy summit’, allowing the president to garner as much influence as he can during the waning years of his tenure. Obama’s concern over the plight of refugees can be demonstrated through his plan to increase the number of refugees the United States takes in by 30%, bringing the current figure from 85,000 to 110,000 per annum; just shy of the all-time 120,000 high benchmark set by former president Bill Clinton in 1995. It can be argued however, that the current presidential election cycle may place Obama’s resettlement plan at risk should Donald Trump clinch the Oval Office given his anti-immigration stance.
Despite all of the potential setbacks of Barack Obama’s agenda, the White House Summit (and the preceding U.N Summit on Refugees) can be viewed as a success on paper. Pledges of financial support have increased substantially, almost beyond expectations, yet how often do nations practise what they preach? Moreover, there has been little or no evidence of discussion in regards to the ongoing proxy war financed by the United States, Russia, Turkey and a medley of other countries; the root cause of the migrant crisis. Conclusively, the war in Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis should ideally be discussed as one, fluid, cohesive subject matter. A summit on refugees is of course a step in the right direction, yet to disregard the actual conflict in Syria is a step into idealism, envisioning a utopianist ideal of words, not action.
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