Record numbers of people displaced

120 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide today.

It’s a shocking figure. When the UN Refugee agency, UNHCR released their updated Global Trends Report in June, the updated displacement figures were overwhelming. At the end of 2023, 117.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced by persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations.

The 2023 figure represented an 8% increase, or 8.8 million additional displaced people compared to the end of 2022. By May 2024, that figure had exploded yet again with an additional 2.7 million people displaced to reach the jaw-dropping number of 120 million.

According to UNHCR, these alarming numbers have continued a series of year-on-year increases over the last 12 years.

UNHCR Global Trends Report 2023

So why are the figures continuing to rise?

Conflicts in Sudan, Gaza and Myanmar are creating new displacement which UNHCR says requires urgent resolution. Millions remain displaced due to ongoing fighting in Myanmar and Sudan, while estimates suggest 75% of Gaza’s population are displaced.

Syria holds the unenviable position of the world’s largest displacement crisis, with 13.8 million people forcibly displaced in and outside the country.

According to The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, current conflicts are often demonstrating a complete disregard for the laws of war which is increasing displacement. Grandi says the combination of persecution and violence with other factors such as climate change, is impacting population movement and displacement.

“It [climate change] can be a driver of conflict, and hence of displacement, especially when the very scarce resources of poor communities become even scarcer,” says Grandi. “Then because of climate change that drives conflict.”

With such stark figures and a global displacement crisis that only seems to get worse every year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Grandi suggests improved cooperation and concerted efforts to address conflict, human rights violations and the climate crisis are key to reversing rising displacement figures.

If humanity fails to respond to the displacement crisis, Grandi warns of “fresh misery and costly humanitarian responses”.

Children at a refugee camp in Jordan. Credit: Joel Pratley/Act for Peace

But it’s not all bad news. Grandi also says the solutions are there. “Refugees – and the communities hosting them – need solidarity and a helping hand,” he says. “They can and do contribute to societies when they are included.”

That’s a sentiment Act for Peace echoes to approaching the displacement crisis.

According to CEO, Elijah Buol OAM, investing in local organisations and joining forces to create lasting change is critical.

“We are helping empower people to regain the peace that comes with having a safe place to belong,” says Elijah.

“Amplifying the voices of people whose lives have been uprooted by conflict and disaster is essential to forming long-term displacement solutions.”

This focus achieves remarkable success where people who are displaced take the lead in developing their own solutions.

Communities in the Pacific are coming up with their own solutions to climate displacement. Refugees in Jordan and Ethiopia are finding a pathway out of poverty thanks to a holistic approach. And refugee-led organisations in Sri Lanka are working to see Tamil refugees based in India, resettled successfully in their homeland Sri Lanka.

“The solutions are here. Progress is possible, we must continue to advocate for systemic change.” says Elijah. “I choose to be overwhelmed with great hope. For when we care for humankind together, we’re acting for peace in the world.”

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