Last December, more than 3000 business and political leaders, advocates, refugees, activists, and organisers from all over the world met in Geneva for the first-ever Global Refugee Forum. We were there too, to call on our leaders to take immediate and effective action in support of refugees.
We also did what we do best: Scoop some ice cream! Our co-founders, Ben and Jerry, were on hand to launch Cone Together, a flavour concocted to raise awareness about, and build support for, people everywhere who are seeking safety.
We were proud to be part of such a groundbreaking event and we left the forum feeling hopeful and energized. When you read our top takeaways from Geneva, we think you’ll feel the same way.
1. People really want to do all they can to help refugees
What we saw in Geneva convinced us that there’s a lot of support for refugees, and that it continues to grow.
- Government representatives promised strengthened asylum systems, along with improved policies regarding access to education, work, and financial services and including more refugees in local and national development plans
- Businesses promised about 15,000 jobs to refugees, along with 125,000 hours per year of free legal aid
- More than 800 pledges were made, along with financial commitments totaling about $10 billion from states, the private sector, and development banks (toward the funding of many projects and initiatives, like job creation, education, financing, energy and infrastructure, and more)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which hosted the event, anticipates further pledges to come in, which is great news. But a pledge to provide funding or adopt new policies is one thing, and actually following through on it is another.
2. There’s still a lot of work to do
Ensuring accountability and monitoring progress will be critical to the success of this forum, because the millions of people who’ve been forced to leave their homes due to conflict, environmental disasters or violence want and need a system that works right now. There’s little time to waste.
All the commitments to improved local and national policies and all the promises of financial support made by organisations, businesses, and states at the forum were good to hear. Such changes will certainly help, when (and if) implemented. But we’re calling on our leaders to do everything they can right now to fix this broken system. Action is key. Immediate and concrete action. And that’s where you come in.
The Global Refugee Forum was the first time this century that the world came together to address the needs of refugees, displaced people, and asylum seekers around the world. It was a powerful first step in finding and implementing collaborative, sustainable solutions, but there is much more work to be done.
3. There are things we can do to help right now
The Global Compact on Refugees calls for a Global Refugee Forum every four years. But to ensure that participants in the first forum are keeping their promises, a meeting will be held in two years to assess progress.
But we don’t need to wait two years to hold our leaders accountable and make a difference in the lives of displaced people. Keep the pressure on your local leaders. Speak up for your friends, neighbours, and community members.
So many amazing organisations are working tirelessly to do the same, and they’re worthy of our support. Here in the UK, we’re standing alongside our friends at Refugee Action who are calling on our leaders to #lifttheban on asylum seekers being able to work, so that people who have fled war and violence can build a new life for themselves and their families. Sign the petition now! Join us and demand action today.
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