Monday, November 27, 2017

Make Cities Part Of The Solution To The Refugee Crisis

http://www.cityulab.com; October 27, 2017


Hello Everyone:

Yours Truly is back from a very long Thanksgiving/Birthday holiday weekend and ready for a fresh week.  A couple of news items: First, a big congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement.  How about that, a Yank in Queen Elizabeth's court.  All those blood blued ancestors must be spinning in their graves.  Blogger wishes the happy a couple a lifetime of joy.  Second, today is the last day to register to vote in time for the Alabama Senate special election.  This election is between Democrat Doug Jones and Repbulican Roy Moore.  If you have not registered yet, the clock is ticking loudly toward the midnight tonight deadline.  If you need more information, please go to vote.org.  Alright on to today's subject: the refugee crisis.

Refugees fleeing violence from Myanmar (Burma) and the Middle East have become the greatest human migration in contemporary times.  Since the end of August, over half a million of Rohingya Muslims have fled secretariat persecution, crossing into Bangladesh in what the United Nations as called "the fastest-growing refugee crisis world today" (theatlantic.com; Oct. 19, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017).  Meanwhile, millions of Syrian and Iraqi men, women, and children, displaced by ongoing civil war, continue to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in hopes of finding a safe haven.  

Bruce Katz and Jessica Brandt report in their CityLab article, "The Refugee Crisis Is a City Crisis," "Against this backdrop, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke last month [in September 2017], during the General Assembly in New York to talk about a new approach for dealing with refugees,...those forced to flee their homes are integrated more permanently the into urban areas rather than isolated in camps."  Specifically,

Inclusion is the name of the game...Cities are frontline players in dealing with refugees (thenational.ae; Sept. 18, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017)

Here is an important real fact: "Local authorities are critical to addressing the needs of the displaced."  According to the UNHCR, "roughly 60 percent of the world's 22 million refugees reside in cities rather than in camps" (Ibid).  The refugees are not only displaced persons from other countries coming from South Asia and the Middle East making their way to the cities; internally displaced people are also finding their way toward urban centers.

Thus it becomes incumbent on municipal officials to formulate specific effective emergency responses as well as plans for long-term integration.  These intiatives must be designed, delivered, and financed at the municipal levels.  The components must include: housing, healthcare, education, job skills training, and a variety of social services.

This is absolutely crucial "...because displacement is not getting just more urban in nature-it's increasingly prolonged."  Some context: in the early nineties, "the average length of displacement was nine years.  Today, it's roughly twenty [rsc.ox.ac.uk; Jan. 2011; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017."  By the end of 2016, more than 11 million refugees (unhcr.org; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017)-two thirds of the total around the world-were in prolonged situations.  Together, these shifts have resulted in a massive in change in the protective needs of displaced persons.  This means that displaced persons coming from the Middle East, for example, are putting down roots in their host communities thus require programs such as language lessons, in order to successfully integrate into their new living situations.  

Displaced persons require "Sustainable interventions build on existing city systems and take into account the needs of the entire community, including host populations."  Municipal officials are a the best position;on to contribute to this effort.  For this reason, humanitarian officials and organizations must engage with cities in discussions on policy and implementation.  

Mr. Grandi also stated that the UNHCR is prepared to take such action.  He said,

UNHCR is ready to step its engagement with mayors around the world.

This is good news, particularly since the "UNHCR has an opportunity to make good on that commitment through the process of drawing up new global agreement on refugees..."  In 2016, global leaders began this process by convening the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which will conclude their annual meeting next year.

In the interim, Mr. Katz and Ms. Brandt suggest that "more should be done to engage local leaders in the negotiation process."  Bruce Katz and Jessica Brandt offer a few ideas on what can be done to engage city officials.  Ms. Brandt authored "Engaging city leaders in the global compact process: Recommendations for action" (brookings.edu; Oct. 17, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017), together with the International Rescue Committee (rescue.org; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017) and 100 Resilient Cities-Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100resilient.org; Nov 24, 2017; date accessed Nov. 27, 2017).  The following are some of the ideas Ms. Brandt and Mr. Katz have on engaging cities in the refugee crisis.  

First, this goes without saying, cities need to be participants in all discussions on displaced persons.  They should be given the opportunity to make a contribution(s) and provide feed back on the draft of the Global Compact on Refugees that the UNHCR is committed to having ready by early next year.  Ms. Brandt and Mr. Katz write, "This feedback process could take place alongside the process of formal consultations, which is set to take place between February and July of next year."

Second, Ms. Brandt and Ms. Katz suggest, "UNHCR should incorporate towns and cities  with size able refugee populations into the testing and development of its approach."  Currently, The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework is set for roll out in eleven countries.  Camp-based or rural refugee populations are the predominant feature in these eleven countries.  As a result, the conclusions from these pilot sites may not completely relate to addressing the present situation: "a majority of refugees reside in towns and cities.  That should change."

Third, "UNHCR should encourage UN member States to engage in meaningful collaboration with municipal authorities by facilitating the flow of technical expertise and resources to town and cities, creating a formal consultation mechanism between city leaders and other decision-makers, and by disentangling financial flows to reach local practitioners."

Finally, the international humanitarian organizations need to develop new strategies to source innovative methods on refugee integration straight to the cities.  Retaining best practices and sharing them widely, can accelerate the scope of replication and the scale of proven solutions.

The refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq shows no sign of abating and the one in Burma and Bangladesh is exploding, thus it is absolutely imperative that best policies and practices be put in place immediately.  Also of the utmost importance, cities must participate in all relevant global discussions-including the ones taking place over the next year.  The United Nationas High Commission for Refugees is open and ready to engage civic officials.  Jessica Brandt and Bruce Katz are ready to help the agency implement their commitment.