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Refugees in the 21st Century: An Issue of Humanitarianism and Diplomacy

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One week ago, Friday the 20th of June was the so-called World Refugee Day. The issue of people's forced displacement from their motherlands is primarily a matter of humanitarian interest. According to United Nations data, around 40 million people worldwide face violence and harassment that force them to leave their own countries. This matter seems to be quite intense in areas where war and armed conflict were dominant, as it happened in Afghanistan, Iraq as well as in sub-saharan african territories, such as in Sudan's Darfur and Somalia.

More specifically, the civil war in Darfur, Sudan had as a tragic result the uprooting of two million people, while almost four million Palestinian refugees live far from their lands. Almost six years after the end of the war in Afghanistan, more than three million Afghans live in Pakistan and Iran as an outcome of the armed conflict in their country. Apart from that, it should be noted that a suprisingly large number of refugees become, every year, victims of human exploitation from organised criminal networks. The numbers and data come to verify an obnoxious condition that exists in various places in the world, mainly as a result of violence and economic inequalities. Furthermore, the above information put another question mark on globalisation's ongoing perplexity: is world politics' step in the right direction?

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According to the head of the United Nations' High Commission for the Refugees Mr.Antonio Guterres* "the expectation that Globalisation would bridge the social gap between the rich and the poor has not been met". However, the efforts for the gradual decrease and eradication of the refugees' issue should not stop under any circumstances. In cooperation with non-governmental organisations and governments themselves, the United Nations attept to enhance humanitarian aid for refugees, to entrench their human and civil rights as well as to assert the initiatives for the reconstruction of the stricken areas. Despite that, the question still remains: is that enough? On that point the need for a more active diplomacy of new initiatives becomes visible. The U.N. efforts should be supported in a more substantial way from the world's powerful governments, the G8 team, the European Union and even NATO.

Therefore, the above means that especial consideration should be given in two issues: firstly to the enhancement of the conflict resolution diplomacy and secondly to the perpetual support of international community's peacemaking policies towards the avoidance of armed conflicts. That because the basement of the whole problems is definitely the existence of armed conflict, in places where violence overshadows political dialogue and mutual understanding. Paraphrasing a quote by Karl Marx, a presumption is that the description of an existing situation is not enough and therefore we must try to change it.

*Note: Article in the Greek daily newspaper "Ta Nea", 20/6/2007.

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Aris Claras is a writer based in Greece.

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