Last week David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and current CEO of the International Rescue Committee, spoke at Schwarzman College. I found Mr. Miliband to be both charismatic and deeply sincere, and really enjoyed hearing about his work on the front lines of addressing the largest global refugee crisis since World War II.
In discussing the work that the IRC does, one of the most striking statistics he shared with us was the fact that there are 25 million refugees who have fled their country, 40 million internally displaced people who have fled their homes, but only 100,000 people being resettled each year. Even if there were the political will to double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of refugees being resettled, it would still only amount to a small percentage of the total.
My impression of Mr. Miliband was that despite these statistics, he did not seem hopeless or cynical. On the contrary, there was a palpable passion and a sense of urgency for the work his organization was doing to address the crisis. He seemed to realize that although the IRC isn’t capable of solving the entire problem, there is still immense value in continuing to provide aid and advocacy on behalf of displaced people. I found this to be one of the most inspiring takeaways of his visit. That is, although a problem may be far too large for one person or organization to solve, working to make it better is still a worthy endeavor.
The solutions I find most compelling, although seemingly herculean, are the restoration of security and stability in refugees’ home countries, the dissipation of toxic political rhetoric, the commitment to refugee rights and dignity, and the improved coordination and management of refugee screening and resettlement among destination countries. I’m glad we had the opportunity to hear Mr. Miliband’s point of view and look forward to many more insightful guest lectures at Schwarzman College.