Benjamin Franklin once said, “There was never a good war, or a bad peace.” The effects of war and civil strife was highlighted in a telling report by the United Nations refugee agency to mark World Refugee Day on Friday—the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people the world over has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million. The annual Global Trends report shows 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, with an increase of six million in a year triggered mainly by the war in Syria.
Major new displacement was also seen in Africa. The biggest refugee populations under the care of UNHCR and by source country are Afghans, Syrians and Somalis —accounting for more than half the global figures. Meanwhile, Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon host more refugees than other countries. India, too, has witnessed throughout its history the influx of refugees and movements of internally displaced people, which remain potential political flashpoints. A history of persecution and deprivation is common to Sri Lankan Tamil, Tibetan, Afghan, Bangladeshi or Myanmar’s Rohingya people, many of who are not even considered as refugees by the Indian state.
Clearly, the debilitating effects of unending wars and internal conflicts are there for all to see. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said, “Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed.” The UN and other international agencies, and the global community are also failing in this respect. Perhaps the fact that half the world’s refugees are children would prick the conscience of warmongers. Or that the refugee hosting nations—who mainly belong to the developing world and are, therefore, economically backward—and aid organisations are on the verge of collapse.