At summit on refugees, world leaders will pledge to do more

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People in overcrowded boat, smaller boat alongside (© AP Images)
The Italian Navy rescued 700 Libyan refugees from this boat in the Mediterranean on August 29. (© AP Images)

President Obama hosts a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York on September 20 to strengthen the resolve of countries to help the tens of millions driven from their homes worldwide.

The summit will take place while world leaders and diplomats are in New York for the 71st session of the U.N. General Assembly. Joining Obama as co-hosts will be the heads of six countries — Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden — already deeply involved in the humanitarian response to the crisis.

Logo for Leaders' Summit on Refugees (State Dept.)
(State Dept.)

The global flood of refugees and migrants today exceeds even the number of displaced persons after World War II. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says 65 million people have fled their homes to seek safety, including 21 million refugees. The Syria crisis is a huge contributor to these numbers, accounting for roughly one-fourth of refugees, but refugees also come from Somalia, Burma, Colombia, Nigeria and other countries.

The purpose of the Leaders’ Summit is to broaden the donor base and secure significant new commitments in three areas:

  • Boosting the number of countries contributing regularly to U.N. humanitarian appeals and increasing by at least $3 billion — from $10 billion to $13 billion — the response to appeals from other international humanitarian organizations.
  • Getting countries to admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways.
  • Helping 1 million more refugee children get into school and giving 1 million more adult refugees the legal right to work.

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, says that while countries’ responses to humanitarian appeals are already at record levels, many such appeals are underfunded. “Massive numbers of refugees are turning to dangerous and illegal smuggling networks in search of safety, and millions more face long-term dependency in first-asylum countries without access to lawful employment and education,” Rice said.

A day before the Leaders’ Summit, the U.N. General Assembly will convene a separate, high-level meeting with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach to helping refugees and migrants.