PQMD Forum 2019 Update: Challenge Panel 2: It’s a Long Way from Home: Refugees & The Displaced

There is a need to think in a transformational way about who should be at the table to address the global refugee and displaced persons crisis.  What are we doing and what needs to be done differently; who is missing and what resources can be leveraged to achieve the best outcomes in terms of access to basic needs including health and human security.

L to R: Sean Carroll, Melissa Fleming, Kim Keller, Yotam Polizer, Julie Jenson

Kim Keller, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications with Johnson & Johnson, presented just these questions to panelists including:

  • Yotam Polizer, Co-CEO, IsraAID
  • Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications, UNHCR
  • Sean Carroll, CEO, ANERA
  • Julie Jenson, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Pfizer

As discussed the previous evening at the Executive Forum, mental health was a theme amongst panelists throughout the discussion. Yotam Polizer of IsraAid echoed that mental health needs have been a significant and under resourced area in many of these locations already, so when adding the anxiety and stress of a refugee/displacement scenario, these issues are exacerbated and even years later PTSD issues may arise as a result of the high degree of trauma.

Melissa Fleming, of UNHCR, shared that 29,000 people a day are displaced from their homes.  As the needs rise, the asylum space is shrinking.  Restrictive policies are growing in popularity.  Images suggest that refugees are overtaking the US and Europe, yet, 85% of the world’s refugees are in developing or poor countries.  Colombia, Ethiopia are examples of countries accepting significant numbers of refugees.  UNHRC aims to let refugees thrive, not just survive.

On the Global Compact on Refugees, Melissa shared that the document is historic. What the compact does is reaffirm the fundamental right that no one fleeing a country for their lives will be sent back. Refugees are not able to go beyond basic survival. If the global compact is implemented, there will be more benefits for host countries and bolstered support, and a way to bring in more of the private sector.

Julie Jenson, of Pfizer, shared that from corporate perspective, the sector has always responded to the immediate response. After visiting refugee camps in Jordan, it became clear that the needs are different.  She went on to ask: how do we identify the needs beyond the acute needs?  And how do we make a business case to senior leadership to support these long-term needs that are not in the news, such as mental health?

Which then begged the question: How do we build the business case to support long-term refugee programs?

Sean Carroll shared that Anera has plenty of data, but no system or resource to analyze it.  The recent World Bank Report on Syrian refugees shows that 1) if a refugee gets an extra hot meal a day they are more likely to go home 2) in best case scenario, most refugees are not going back home.  So we must establish measurements for outcomes at the start of response.

It is encouraging that PQMD is pulling together to look at challenges and opportunities for supporting integration of refugees.

It is also clear that NOT investing in refugees (who spend an average of 17 years in exile) is a huge missed opportunity.  If we care about a future of peace, we will invest in refugee programs.  Programs such as schools and education are critical for international community to invest in the future.

The refugee crisis can seem daunting and hopeless when we talk about it broadly, but when you see the programs and the hope they are giving to a family, it is inspiring.