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Queen urges more support for Jordan, refugees at NY meetings

Her Majesty says crisis is about human dignity, has become part of new global reality

By JT - Sep 20,2016 - Last updated at Sep 20,2016

Her Majesty Queen Rania participates in a roundtable on international action at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in New York on Monday (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN — Her Majesty Queen Rania said on Monday that the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis cannot fall on the countries closest to the conflict to shoulder alone, adding that how the international community decides to respond to this crisis now will shape the world for decades to come.

The Queen made these remarks in her capacity as a humanitarian advocate during a roundtable on international action at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, while on a working visit to New York with His Majesty King Abdullah.

The high-level summit aims to address large movements of refugees and migrants, and bring countries together to hash out a more coordinated approach to this global trend, according to a statement from Her Majesty’s office.

In her remarks, the Queen highlighted the need to boost global collaboration and partnerships in responding to the refugee crisis.

Her Majesty described the global forced displacement of more than 65 million people as “a record of tragic proportions”.

“Millions of people have had the misfortune of being born in a place so wracked by violence, poverty, persecution or insecurity that they had no choice but to leave,” the Queen said.

She described the refugee influx as a crisis about human dignity and decency, and one that reflected “the future of our interconnected world”.

She called on the audience to partner across sectors to empower refugees and enable them to become independent, so that they can contribute to the economy, and eventually rebuild their homelands.

The Queen also emphasised Jordan’s reputation as the world’s second largest host of refugees per capita.

“In a country of 6.6 million Jordanians, we have opened our doors to 1.3 million Syrians fleeing violence in their homeland, just as we have opened our doors in the past to Palestinians, Iraqis and others seeking a safe haven.”

“I could not be prouder of the generosity my countrymen and women have shown,” Queen Rania added.

While also commending the generosity of the international community, Her Majesty explained that it is still “no match for the towering need”, with foreign assistance to Jordan barely covering one-third of the cost of hosting refugees.

But the Queen added that Jordan is determined to “craft opportunity from crisis” through initiatives like the Jordan Compact.

The compact offers a long-term solution to the refugee crisis by creating income-generating opportunities for the vulnerable to support themselves, instead of relying on dwindling handouts.

“In 18 Special Economic Zones across the country, private companies that put down manufacturing roots will now have greater access to the European market and investment incentives, while creating jobs and training opportunities for both Syrians and Jordanians,” the Queen explained.

But for this pilot programme to succeed, “we need to work together — public and private, humanitarian and development, donor and host”, Her Majesty added.

And while children continue to make up over half of the world’s refugee population, and are the most affected by war and conflict, Queen Rania urged the audience to “think of these children — the past they escaped, and the potential they hold”.

Jordan and Canada co-chaired the roundtable, with the participation of representatives from 29 other countries.

Later on Monday, Queen Rania also participated in the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, as a panellist at a session titled “Succeeding in the World’s Toughest Places”. 

She spoke alongside Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven at the session, attended by 1,000 people.

The Queen underlined the challenges facing refugee host countries like Jordan, describing the scale of the crisis as overwhelming and calling the global response to it disproportionate.

Her Majesty also revealed that the world’s six wealthiest countries, accounting for up to 60 per cent of the global economy, host less than 9 per cent of the world’s refugees. In contrast, more than half live in countries like Jordan, which make up less than 2 per cent of the world’s economy.

She added that due to low levels of international funding, Jordan has had to spend up to a quarter of its budget on the needs of refugees, raising the country’s debt to gross domestic product ratio to 94 per cent.

The Queen stressed the need to recast the global debate about refugees on the grounds that the crisis has become part of a new global reality. She warned that failure to do so will continue to polarise politicians and populations.

Her Majesty explained that the narrative around refugees, which is supposed to be fundamentally humanitarian, has been politicised to garner popularity and votes.

Despite a public outcry, “little has changed in the world’s appetite in dealing with the refugees in meaningful ways”, she added.

“One thing that I find frustrating is that most leaders are stuck in linear modes of thinking and in traditional approaches, or are consumed by very urgent issues like votes and short-term politics, that they do not think of the disruptions happening in the world,” Queen Rania said.

 

“At the end of the day, this is about people and values. We have to create a future that works for all of us by putting people front and centre.”

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