At the end of May, Alexander Betts, RSC Director, attended the second annual Aurora Dialogues in Yerevan, Armenia. The Aurora Dialogues provide a platform for the world’s leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and members of civil society to come together for a series of insightful discussions about some of today’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. The Dialogues encourage collaborative conversations to explore the importance of learning from the past, acting in the present, and fostering a better future.
Discussion topics this year included global migration and its far-reaching impacts, the responsibility of business to help overcome challenges posed by the refugee crisis, and the media’s role in bringing humanitarian crises to the world’s attention.
Betts spoke at the session ‘Empowering Refugees’, moderated by Sasha Chanoff (above left), Founder and Executive Director of RefugePoint. He reflected upon the role of context and terms when it comes to discussing the issue of the refugee ‘crisis’.
“It’s been gratifying to see how much the refugee crisis has already been spoken about. We all heard the big headline figure – there are more people in the world today who are displaced than in any time since the World War II. But let’s put it into context,” he noted.
“In the last couple of years the refugee issue has been labelled a refugee crisis. And it’s worth asking where and why. Providing protection and solutions to refugees should be manageable. The crisis that took hold in 2015 was not a crisis of numbers. It was a crisis of politics.”
The session suggests some new ways to address refugee populations beyond the three traditional durable solutions for refugees – voluntary repatriation, local integration in a host country with a pathway to citizenship, and resettlement to a third country. Collectively these have helped only a tiny percentage of the refugee population in recent years. Betts draws on his research in Uganda to highlight the benefits (to refugees and the host society) of empowering refugees by giving them the right to work and freedom of movement. He also discusses the situation in Jordan, which is more restrictive in access to work for refugees, but which is now providing permits for Syrians to work in special economic zones, assisted by external investment and trade concessions.