“The global displacement crisis is really at historic levels. People have been forced out of their homes at a rate that hasn’t happened since World War II. But I don’t want to start with the numbers, because I think the numbers can numb you. What I’d like to do... is start with the stories of people to whom this has happened.”
Thus, longtime member of the United States Foreign Service and former U.S. ambassador Michael Klosson ’71 began his presentation on Oct. 25 regarding the global refugee crisis. Klosson is now the vice president of Policy and Humanitarian Response for Save the Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing relief and support to children the world over. Last year, Save the Children reached more than 155 million children in 120 countries, providing health and education programs, emergency response, and child protection to children around the world.
As Klosson made clear from the start of his presentation, numbers can only move people so much, so he prefers to share refugees’ stories from their often perilous journeys to safety. Klosson was especially moved by the courage of refugee families fleeing Rohingya persecution in Myanmar. At a camp for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, kids come home and, despite their unstable situation, “the first thing they do is their homework,” Klosson said. Klosson was amazed by the “contrast between the enormity of what’s happened to these kids on the one hand, and yet they want to be doctors, they want to be teachers, and so there’s a resilience of the human spirit that you see when you travel to these places.”
Klosson’s presentation focused on finding solutions to helping the 68.5 million displaced people worldwide, 53% of whom are children. Klosson observed that these crises are all tied together, and “the common thread is conflict and instability,” he said. “If the world is just doing three things… putting a roof over your head, food on the table, and basic health care, we’re failing. Children are not going to be educated,” Klosson said, “and they’re not returning home.”
Klosson encouraged the audience to call and write to their government representatives and make responding to this crisis a top priority. “There’s a lot of room for the U.S. government to step up more, as well as others. ... It’s a struggle, but it’s absolutely critical that the U.S. be a leader in this case.” Klosson concluded “You know where to go if there’s a natural disaster, you know where to go if there’s a light conflict to be resolved. Where do you go to build peace? That’s not owned by one agency, and that’s true across a lot of governments … There’s a lot of room for improvement there.”