More than 2,000 people are gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, for the first-ever Global Refugee Forum.
The three-day event opens Monday. It aims to create new ideas, as well as long-term promises, to help refugees and the communities that support them.
Forum organizers are welcoming heads of state from a number of countries, including Germany, Turkey, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Somalia. The United Nations, businesses and humanitarian agencies also are expected to send representatives to the event.
Wars, conflicts and persecution have forcibly displaced more than 70 million people worldwide. That number includes over 25 million refugees, who have fled across international borders and are unable to return to their homes.
The UN’s refugee agency says that more than 67 percent of all refugees worldwide came from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. The agency adds that Turkey has received the largest number of refugees, with 3.7 million, mostly those who have fled Syria.
The UN agency says it hopes the meeting this week will change the way refugees and the countries and communities that help them are treated and supported.
Babar Baloch is a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He told VOA the international communities’ piecemeal way of helping displaced persons and refugees must change.
"This is bringing everyone together at the same place…but also trying to work out a way forward in terms of how we deal with displacement issues. It is a clear call of responsibility sharing," he said.
Baloch said everyone at all levels of government, development, financial, civil and other parts of society has to take responsibility. They all must help care for refugees.
"It is about changing policies toward refugees,” he added. “It is about responsibility sharing with the world's largest refugee (supporting) nations pledging more places for resettlement. But it is also changing policies…in education, in health services and other (areas).”
Private industry also can be very important to answering the growing needs of refugees.
The UNHCR reports more than 100 groups and companies, such as IKEA and Lego, are attending the Global Refugee Forum. It says these organizations are ready to promise jobs and other assistance to refugees.
I’m Susan Shand.
VOA’s Lisa Schlein reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
global – adj. involving the whole world
forum - n. a meeting at which a subject can be discussed
persecution – n. the unfair treatment of someone because of race or religious or political beliefs
piecemeal – adj. done or made slowly in a series of separate steps