“Our Shared Humanity”

There are 65 million people displaced worldwide. An unprecedented number of people are being forced to migrate to escape war, poverty, the impact of climate change and persecution. The humanitarian system is overwhelmed by the number and scale of humanitarian emergencies and conflicts. Indeed, a world with millions uprooted is itself a crisis.

On this World Humanitarian Day, humanitarian actors and global citizens working together is critical to delivering life-saving assistance in the aftermath of a crisis, in ending displacement and finding durable solutions.

Of all those displaced worldwide, 40 million are displaced within their borders and another 21 million have become refugees. Once displaced, they continue to live with severe deprivation and discrimination. Displacement is increasingly protracted, lasting on average 17 years and,   in conflict-related contexts, 23 years.

Displacement results in generations of children growing into adulthood unaware of what life can be in a stable environment. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are particularly vulnerable. Like refugees, they are forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict, gross human rights violations and other traumatic events. While an established system of international protection and assistance is in place for cross-border displacement, however, those who remain within their borders continue to fall under the responsibility of a state that is often unable or unwilling to provide them with necessary protection and assistance.  

Moreover, countries with the weakest capabilities and the most uneven patterns of development host the vast majority of conflict-related displacement. More than a humanitarian issue, the consequences of failing to meet the needs of displaced populations and affected communities are far-reaching.

In place of piecemeal responses focused on the risks and burdens of forced displacement, broader, more innovative and comprehensive approaches are needed. Investment, support and assistance should aim to build self-reliance among displaced populations, and build towards the long term resolution of displacement.

Addressing and resolving displacement through innovative solutions and investments can yield beneficial opportunities for populations, communities and economies. Through an approach of ‘creating shared value’, there can be engagement with the private sector to promote and restore sustainable development pathways. Addressing the needs of, and finding solutions for, displaced populations, however, is not enough. The real issue -- and most viable alternative and pressing need -- is to address displacement at its source to prevent conditions that force families to abandon their homes and livelihoods.

This is undeniably a herculean task --  not one that a single humanitarian agency, or even all humanitarian actors combined, can resolve on their own. Harnessing the collective power of individuals and the global citizenry is crucial.
We know that it is possible for humanity to come together. At the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in May, we saw the global community came together to make commitments and turn promises into action on, ways and means to support people affected by crisis and  ensure that aid workers can safely and effectively deliver assistance to those in need.

The theme of this year’s World Humanitarian Day is ‘One Humanity’. This theme highlights the importance of our shared humanity - building connections across divides and creating a sense of shared responsibility for addressing displacement. The theme of “One Humanity” should inspire us to mobilize further our common resources to ensure that crisis-affected populations have a second chance.

William Lacy Swing
IOM Director General