As the global refugee crisis continues, countries in the Levant and Muslim world need to work together with partners in the European Union, said HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan at a Friends of Europe debate in Brussels on 1 June.
The Prince, who chairs the Amman-based WANA Institute think-tank, told an audience of about 200 people that the two sides need to create institutions and processes that place simple human dignity at the forefront.
“The Levant contains 38% of all global refugees, and 80% of refugees in the world are Muslims,” he added. “Yet there are no institutions comparable to the Bretton Woods institutions in the region. How can we discuss the consequences and solutions to the Syria crisis if we in the region are not taking the lead?”
Speaking in ‘Conversation With’ Friends of Europe’s Shada Islam and Giles Merritt, the Prince said that through decades of conflict, the region has yet to develop the intra-independence and mutual respect needed to create regional commons in terms of energy, food and nutrition, security and knowledge-sharing.
“Our region could depend on its own resources if they were made regional commons,” he stressed. “We could make ourselves less lonely by committing ourselves to a shared discourse. Instead, we see ourselves divided again and again.”
As it stands, global responses to the refugee crisis are overwhelmingly concerned with hard security. To find real solutions, human dignity must take centre stage, defying the facile theory that security means weapons alone. Investments from the EU and international community in sustainability and development should be focussed on human capital and dignity.
The Prince added that current programmes aimed at countering violent extremism that have been budgeted by Western and international development agencies such as USAID and the UK’s Department for International Development emphasise hard security to the detriment of many refugees, including the most vulnerable – unaccompanied children.
In Zaatari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp, 80% of the refugees are children, Prince El Hassan said. “These children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, stunted growth, malnutrition, and more. We are simply not doing enough to care for them and as time passes, we risk losing an entire generation because we cannot work together.”
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