Setting the Scene for Future Conflicts

Despite its promise to leave no one behind, the UN’s new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is silent on the biggest crisis of our contemporary world: refugees. Progressively intractable conflicts are creating a spiraling global-refugee crisis that today includes close to 60 million individuals around the world. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people each day were forced to flee their homes due to ongoing war and violence — more than half of them children under 18. This global community of refugees could make the 24th most populous nation in the world.

To be truly transformative, the new agenda must address the plight of refugees and the internally displaced as a central feature for achieving peace and security. This requires a number of interconnected actions that link across various goals in the agenda, including those related to poverty, education, health and partnerships for development.

A key achievement of the agenda, particularly through Goal 16 on Peace, Security, and Inclusivity, is its emphasis on the interdependence between conflict and development; that underdevelopment and inequality are drivers of conflict, while violence undermines development. This is clearest in Syria, where the massive damage to lives, livelihoods and the economic and physical infrastructure of the country means that 80 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line.

However, the goal’s focus on governance structures and institution building makes the inclusion of millions of refugees and internally displaced individuals and communities neither obvious nor straightforward. For the countries of origin, the scale of this challenge is perhaps again clearest in Syria, where conflict has driven close to 12 million out of their homes and four million out of the country. Entire ethnic and religious communities are also fleeing lands they have lived on for centuries, in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and —> Read More