In 2015, the global refugee crisis reached Europe. Over 1 million refugees and migrants arrived on its southern shores, most of them from war-torn places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The trend continued in 2016, with more than 171,000 arrivals during the first three months. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Worldwide, more than 60 million people have been displaced by war, persecution or human rights abuses. Some 86 per cent of them live in developing countries, mostly those neighbouring conflict zones.
The war in Syria is the single largest driver of displacement today, with 4.8 million refugees in the region and at least 6.6 million internally displaced persons. Nearly half of the people currently arriving in Europe are Syrians.
While the Syrian conflict constitutes the world's largest humanitarian crisis, it is not the only one. Over the past few years, violence has erupted or reignited in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Myanmar, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen, forcing millions of people from their homes. Thousands are fleeing levels of violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras not seen since Central America's brutal civil wars in the 1980s. At the same time, some of the most protracted and forgotten conflicts remain unresolved, leaving many more displaced, often for generations. Nearly 1 million Somalis and some 2.5 million Afghans are in such a situation.
Humanitarian needs have grown exponentially over the last 15 years. A record 125 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance because of war and natural disasters, at an annual cost of $25 billion, 12 times more than 15 years ago. And while humanitarian funding has increased significantly over the years, the needs vastly outpace the means.
When, in 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the World Humanitarian Summit to galvanize greater leadership to prevent and resolve conflict and reduce suffering, he did so out of concern about the growing number of people in need of humanitarian aid and the dramatic increase in financial requirements. Now, on the eve of the Summit, the situation has deteriorated further and become unsustainable for humanitarian agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Not only are we called upon to provide immediate and life-saving aid in a growing number of emergencies, but we...