Former Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy has been tapped to lead the World Refugee Council, a group that will be tasked with finding new ways to deal with the world refugee crisis.

Mr. Axworthy will be chair of this organization, which has been created by the Waterloo, Ont.-based Centre for International Governance Innovation and is getting about $500,000 in financial support from the federal government. The council will have representation from around the world.

Mr. Axworthy was an MP representing a Winnipeg riding for almost 20 years up until 1997. He served in several cabinet roles, including as Foreign Affairs minister in the government of Jean Chrétien and as Employment and Immigration minister in the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Speaking with The Hill Times last week, he shared some of his thoughts on what the world should be doing in response to the crisis, which now sees more than 21 million refugees around the world.

For one thing, he said more countries have to step up and do their part in solving this problem. At one end of the spectrum are countries such as Jordan, which have taken in millions of refugees in recent years despite having limited resources, and then there are other countries that do virtually nothing. In the middle are countries like Canada, which settled more than 40,000 Syrian refugees between late 2015 and early this year.

“Some people get a free ride and others are doing the heavy lifting,” he said. “Canada has been doing a little bit of both.”

He said improvements can be made by not just getting countries to take in more refugees, but also attaining cooperation from the international community for predictable amounts of funding to deal with the problem.

Mr. Axworthy said more efforts should be made to create jobs for refugees in their adopted countries, as that would lead to more successful integrations.

“The way in which we can best support people who have left their own home countries is to find employment in these areas so they can actually make a little money,” he said. “To do that, you’ve got to get a big contribution and participation from the private sector. You have to get governments onside, and again, you have to be prepared to put in some ‘priming the pump’ money.”

He added that using technology to better predict refugee spurts, including when they will happen and where they will go, could go a long way to getting a grip on this crisis.


This article originally appeared in the Hill Times.