A Canadian think-tank is hoping to reshape the world’s handling of an unprecedented global refugee crisis that has displaced more than 21 million people.
The Waterloo-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) will launch the World Refugee Council Tuesday, with financial support from the federal government. The independent council, chaired by former Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy, hopes to offer solutions to the world’s refugee crisis through a number of reports informed by meetings with governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Axworthy said the global refugee system needs reform in order to address the imbalance among countries who resettle refugees.
“Going back to the [United Nations] Refugee Convention in 1951, there’s a clear expectation that countries will work in a collaborative way. Because you can’t deal with refugee issues, which are cross-border issues, country by country,” Mr. Axworthy said.
“You’ve got certain countries … which are basically denying those responsibilities. In the meantime, you’ve got countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Uganda which are having to carry the real brunt of support and settlement, even though they themselves are pretty limited or poor in their own respects. There’s a fundamental inequity in the way in which the system’s working right now.”
The council will hold at least six international meetings between now and early 2019, when it completes its final report. The first meeting will be held in Geneva in June. Mr. Axworthy said the group is also hoping to make trips into the field, including Jordan, to visit refugee camps and resettlement pilot projects.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has expressed her support for the council.
“Canada is committed to being a strong voice to help the most vulnerable worldwide,” the minister said in a statement.
Given the fact that a number of Canadians also sit on the board, including former ambassador Paul Heinbecker and Fen Hampson of CIGI’s Global Security and Politics program, Mr. Axworthy said Canada stands to play a major role in influencing the future of the global refugee system.
The council is mostly funded by CIGI and consists of a volunteer board. A number of people who sit on the council, including Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar, have been refugees.
This article originally appeared in the Globe and Mail Politics Brief.