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New York, July 19, 2017 – On the sidelines of the 2017 UN High-Level Political Forum last month in New York, we hosted a side event to discuss the effects of migration on gender equality and development. The event was co-organized by The Hunger Project and Church World Service (CWS), a global and first responder to the migration crisis. The event was moderated by The Hunger Project’s Senior Policy Analyst and UN Representative, Mary Kate Costello, and addressed the contentious issues of culture, xenophobia and donor restrictions affecting the current migration crisis – the largest since World War II.

The discussion focused on the need for integrated, gender-focused and community-led solutions that empower people on the brink of displacement and migration. Rosie del Pilar Diaz Garavito, Youth Delegate from the Mission of Peru to the UN, used her own country as an example. Discussing the effects of climate change, she explained how frequent flooding has forced rural families to migrate, abandoning their homes, lands and crops.

“They can’t even make a living with the natural resources they have,” Rosario said, then highlighted some of the other challenges Peruvians face, such as poor employment prospects caused by the lack of educational opportunities. In situations such as these, she underscored, it is women, children and people with disabilities who are the most vulnerable. This means that governments need to devise long-term action plans to combat climate change, promote gender equality and foster the financial inclusion of vulnerable communities.

The event also tackled the topic of displacement caused by conflict and the resulting plight of millions of refugees. In recent years, from Syria to Burundi, the world has witnessed an unprecedented level of mass migration, mostly of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries. But even after escaping war, refugees often face many challenges.

In Tanzania, refugees face difficulties gaining access to labor markets – both due to a misalignment in skills and legal barriers to employment. According to Andrew Fuys of CWS, just 25% of refugees have access to an income, further highlighting the need to devise strategies that begin at the local level. Now is the time to think about working on community-driven approaches,” he said. This means providing refugees with access to financial markets, vocational training and work for which they have relevant skillsets.

 

UN Women’s Ravi Karkara brought to the discussion the plight of displaced women and girls, lamenting the inadequate funding currently plaguing global efforts to address the issue. “More than 50% of the world’s displaced are women and girls,” he warned. “Yet in 2014, only 4% of UN funding was targeted directly to women and girls.”

Panelists also delved into a discussion of the role played by humanitarian actors (and their beliefs) in crisis settings. UNFPA’s Azza Akram of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) explained that both secular and faith-based responders must increase their collaboration and break down any preconceived notions of their initiatives simply because of a specific religious affiliation or none at all.

In his closing remarks, Maurice Bloem, Executive Vice President of Church World Service, warned that the global community needs to face the reality of the migration crisis and get serious about meeting human rights for each human. In summary, we learned that we need to GET REAL YO, with each of those letters addressing some of the key issues raised during the session — from “gender-focused” to “youth opportunities.”.  As one of the audience participants said: No one should be left behind.


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