Resilience, Peace and Security

COVID will have longer lasting impact on displaced people - the UN's refugee chief speaks to Radio Davos

UNHCR Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva speaking during the Session: Redesigning Humanitarian Action: Beyond the Crisis at the Annual Meeting 2017 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 18, 2017.Copyright by World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Image: WEF/Sikarin Thanachaiary

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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Middle East and North Africa

  • UNHCR reports record numbers of displaced people, despite COVID.
  • High Commissioner tells Radio Davos of his hopes and fears for a post-COVID world.
  • And we hear from Victor Ochen, an internally displaced person for 20 years.
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More than 82 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes - that’s around the entire population of a country like Germany or Turkey.

And it's more than ever - despite the pandemic making it harder for refugees to cross borders.

Have you read?

For World Refugee Day, Radio Davos spoke to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and to Victor Ochen, who grew up in a conflict zone in northern Uganda and has used his experience as a displaced person to help others.

Key quotes:

Filippo Grandi:

"Most of these 80-plus million people we’re talking about, refugees, displaced people, are in poor countries…[which have] fewer resources to deal with these massive problems."

"I think the problem [of vaccine inequality] is not inequality in respect of refugees, it is inequality between countries. And I think that I am actually surprised that there is not even more outcry about what a scandal it is."

"The risk of backfiring globally is very, very high. The slogan … that we will not be safe until everybody is safe ... is actually the most true slogan of the many that have been coined around the pandemic."

"The slogan of the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals is: ‘No one should be left behind’. The risk of that ... is much higher now than it was a year and a half ago. And this is where we need to focus in the next few years."

"If you look at the type of money that has been mobilized to respond to COVID and you look at the aid budgets, the proportion is staggering. One is huge and one is very small, comparatively speaking. So I do hope that governments will have a better judgement than that and will not take it [from] aid budgets to compensate for the large expenditure."

82.4 million refugees were displaced worldwide in 2020 due to persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations
Like the population of Germany, or Turkey, forced from their homes. Image: UNHCR

Victor Ochen:

"I was born into war. I was born in the community affected by war and a society where nothing was happening except the struggle for power."

"It was the most dangerous venture, most dangerous move, to talk about peace in an environment where there is no peace, to talk against war in an environment clouded by conflict."

"War destroys one key institution: not the government, not the United Nations, not international organizations, not politics – war destroys the family. Families are split apart, families lose members, families become so helpless, separated for life. They live in that endless sense of not knowing what will happen. It's very difficult to see something good come out of a community where families are destroyed."

"Suffering in northern Uganda, suffering in Africa, is no different from suffering anywhere in the world. With COVID came a lot of understanding that we are all human, we are all powerless, we are all fragile. We shouldn't wait for suffering to knock on our doors before we act to care for those who are already suffering."


Mentioned in this episode:

COVAX - the global effort to get COVID vaccines to all.

The UK's plan to cut its overseas aid budget.

COP26 - the climate summit due to happen in November.

Lord's Resistance Army - the militia that caused Victor Ochen's family to become displaced people.

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Related topics:
Resilience, Peace and SecuritySustainable Development
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