Millions of refugees have fled their countries and homes to escape oppression, persecution and natural disasters in search of a better life, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the opening of the 17th Doha Forum.
Attendants of the forum, under the theme “Development, Stability and Refugee Crisis,” included Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri and Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre.
An increase in conflicts has led to the displacement of millions worldwide, which means millions of stories of suffering that cannot be measured quantitatively, said the emir.
This increases the international community’s responsibility to find just, sustainable solutions to these conflicts, he added.
“I note here with great regret the displacement of Iraqi Christians, not only because of the suffering and tragedies that followed the displacement… but also because it altered the pluralistic nature of the ancient Arab societies and their cultural richness,” he said.
He also cited the displacement of the Palestinian people in 1948, and that of about half the Syrian population within and beyond Syria’s borders.
“People have resorted to other regions or countries to protect their children from indiscriminate bombing, collective punishment, the brutality of forces and allied militias, and the repressive behavior of extremist movements that have imposed themselves on the just Syrian people’s revolution,” Al-Thani said.
He called for “a political solution that achieves justice for the Syrian people, who have experienced the worst because they dared to aspire to freedom and justice… The Syrian regime has displaced its people and changed its demographic structure instead of changing itself.”
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Qatar continues to maximize its efforts to provide all forms of support to refugees, said the emir.
“Development and stability are interdependent and intertwined; there is no development without stability, and no stability without development,” he added.
He called for greater international cooperation to resolve the flow of refugees across borders, in way that focuses on humanity rather than national identity.
He said terrorism and extremism are a global phenomenon that is not associated with a specific society, people or religion.
“The eradication of this abhorrent phenomenon requires international cooperation and a strategy… to address the circumstances and causes of terrorism,” he said.
Al-Bashir said the large number of refugees worldwide, totaling about 250 million, clearly impacts the stability and development of societies, and is one of the most important issues globally.
Sudan’s hosting of large numbers of refugees stems from his belief in the teachings of Islam and the traditions of his family, Al-Bashir said, adding that he is committed to international laws and agreements on refugees.
The nearly 2 million refugees and asylum-seekers in Sudan enjoy full rights equal to Sudanese citizens, he said.
Sudan was the first country to enact a law to regulate asylum in 1974, followed by similar laws in 2014 and 2015 to combat human trafficking, he added.
Al-Bashir called on the international community to play its humanitarian role in providing assistance to vulnerable groups and addressing the root causes of crises politically, economically and socially, saying Sudan will cooperate with all humanitarian efforts.
Keita said the international community should help refugees in host countries, while focusing on finding means to return them safely to their home countries.
“We should not remain idle,” he said. “All assistance must be provided to… refugees to protect them and ensure their security.”
He praised the commitment of countries such as Qatar and Algeria to support Mali and its efforts to promote peace.
Al-Hariri said: “The most important thing the Arab region needs today is stability, security and development.”
He stressed the need for cooperation against extremism and terrorism, saying they “have become globalized.” Arab states face both common and country-specific challenges, he added.
Al-Hariri highlighted the importance of creating employment opportunities for youths by stimulating economic growth in full partnership between the public and private sectors.
“The Lebanese government is prioritizing the implementation of” such a partnership, he said. “We have launched a series of reforms to promote the economy across all sectors.”
But he noted the difficulties in spurring economic growth given the presence of 1.5 million Syrian and half a million Palestinian refugees, equal to almost half the number of Lebanese citizens in the country.
Lebanon is carrying out its duties and commitments to the Syrian humanitarian crisis, but cannot continue to shoulder the burden alone, he said.
This burden has increased poverty and unemployment, and has “burdened public services and infrastructure, and increased the deficit of public finances at a time of economic decline,” he said.
“Our Arab brothers, who have always been on the side of Lebanon in good times and bad, will be at the forefront of supporters among the international community to contribute to ensuring the stability of our country and its ability to withstand the hurricanes that plague the region,” said Al-Hariri.