As the UN meets to develop a global plan for refugees, there's something we can all do.
On Sept. 19, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly gathered to discuss one of the most pressing issues of modern times: the world refugee crisis.
More than 65 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced, including an estimated 21.3 million refugees. Each day, conflict and persecution displace nearly 34,000 people.
It's a crisis that can no longer be ignored. The UN has called a summit of world heads of state to develop a blueprint for a better global response.
What's happening at the #UNGA on Monday? #UN4RefugeesMigrants Summit + much more, see: https://t.co/pTbAHpRrlZ https://t.co/8QqSbZYlxE— United Nations (@United Nations) 1474279503
"It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants," reads a statement on the UN's website.
More than half of the world's refugees come from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan, and Syria.
As what can feel like unending conflict rages on in these countries, it can be easy to forget the hellish conditions their citizens must withstand. It's not their fault their countries are at war, yet they suffer the consequences of others' actions. For many, the choice is to stay home and face near-certain death or to flee and hope the rest of the world shows them compassion.
This is an issue that extends far beyond our countries' borders; this is an issue that comes with a true moral imperative on a human level.
During the summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced an initiative designed to unify us as people first. It's called the Together initiative.
The Together campaign urges people around the world — including and perhaps especially our politicians — to think about how they frame issues.
#UN4RefugeesMigrants Summit shows that we can find common ground - Ban Ki-moon https://t.co/Q08I8U1tCa https://t.co/t6eacksPLk— United Nations (@United Nations) 1474290911
As part of the campaign, the UN refugee agency put out a series of videos to help humanize refugees and put a face on the crisis.
In a video posted to Facebook, actors Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg, and Neil Gaiman perform the rhythmic poem "What They Took With Them."
The poem, written by Jenifer Toksvig, was inspired by stories and firsthand accounts from refugees discussing what objects they gathered before fleeing home.
It's a sobering look at the life of a refugee, of how much so many of us take for granted in this world.
What They Took With Them
Cate Blanchett performs the rhythmic poem ‘What They Took With Them’ alongside fellow actors Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman. The poem was written by Jenifer Toksvig and was inspired by stories and first-hand testimonies from refugees forced to flee their homes and items they took with them. One of the sources for the poem was Brian Sokol’s photography project, ‘The Most Important Thing,’ made in collaboration with UNHCR. Many of Brian's photos, along with firsthand accounts from the refugees he photographed, are featured in the film. Released exclusively on Facebook, the film urges people to sign the #WithRefugees petition to help ensure refugees have the basics to build back their lives – an education, somewhere safe to live and the opportunity to work. To see the full version of the film and to sign the petition go to www.withrefugees.orgPosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency on Thursday, September 8, 2016
The refugee crisis isn't going anywhere soon. That's why it's important for our language to continue evolving and for us to be especially cognizant of how we tie refugees into political speech. They're people. They deserve to be treated as such.