International Rescue Committee

At the end of 2018, a year unfortunately marked by natural disasters and violent conflict, the global community is looking for ways to cope with international extreme poverty levels measuring at 10.7 percent and provide help for the 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.

Recent figures published by the U.N. Refugee Agency reveal how almost one person is forcibly displaced from its home every two seconds as a result of the conflict, persecution or natural disaster. This vast number of people struggle to access and achieve basic human rights such as education, health care and employment.

According to many in the humanitarian field, this problem is expected to continue and even increase. Natural disaster-related displacement and impoverishment are expected to increase as a result of increasingly severe natural disasters as a product of climate change.

The International Rescue Committee

Although the situation is grim, there are numerous organizations and institutions fighting to safeguard the rights of impoverished and displaced people throughout the globe. One such group, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), has done so since 1933 when it was founded on the suggestion of a prominent group of American intellectuals that included the German-born physicist Albert Einstein.

The IRC, located in the United States, is a humanitarian nonprofit organization that has a mission to respond to humanitarian crises and support the people that are affected by crisis recover from their losses. Operating through 191 field offices in over 30 countries, the IRC has a broad diversity of projects underway that attempt to effectively address crises.

In 2017 alone, the organization helped nearly 23 million people access primary health care and provided 1.14 million children with schooling and other educational opportunities. In addition to their international efforts, the IRC also works in 27 cities in the U.S. in order to help newly settled refugees adjust to life in the country.

How the International Rescue Committee Works

The International Rescue Committee prioritizes evidenced-based impactful programs, fast and effective rescue and relief efforts and follows what they call better aid strategies. The IRC differentiates itself from other nongovernmental organizations with its commitment to ensuring that each of the aid or relief programs it runs are based upon solid, appropriate evidence or is at least contributing to the creation of new evidence.

Additionally, in terms of speedy response, the group has pledged to organize health care, distribute cash and deliver clean water within 72 hours of a disaster. “Better aid“, as the organization describes it, represents refocusing of aid and relief strategies to make quantifiable improvements in the areas in which the organization works (health, economic well-being, safety, education and power) while also being cost-efficient and effective.

Practically, this means devoting more time and energy to cash transfers that have been proven to effectively help people in need at a quicker pace and at lower costs. This also means adhering to evidence-based practices that make the most impact for a limited amount of resources. Additionally, the IRC is focusing on updating the way the humanitarian community approaches protracted displacement.

Protracted Displacement

Protracted displacement refers to the increased duration of displacement and refugees separation from home. The longer-term of refugees staying in host communities have posed a challenge to the traditional mold of humanitarian assistance and has pitted refugees in a burdensome relationship to their asylum governments.

In the International Rescue Committee’s effort to address protracted displacement, the organization is advocating for the advancement of a new model that connects international institutions, donors, refugee host-governments and nongovernmental organizations in a combined effort to shape longer-term sustainable development that incorporates displaced populations not as liabilities, but as contributors in a new economic partnership.

Interventions by outside bodies in the form of providing access to capital, employment, cash transfers and other strategies can uplift displaced communities and help them recover economically while at the same time benefiting host-governments by creating a new labor force willing to work for their place in the country. With new creative planning, like the one being done at the International Rescue Committee, mutualistic relationship between refugees and their hosts can be formed.

Hope for Tomorrow

In the years to come, it is highly unlikely that the crises of poverty, displacement and conflict will dwindle. With the effects of climate change creeping in upon us, bringing stronger and more frequent natural disasters, conflict and higher numbers of displaced people, there’s much work to be done in addressing the problems that will follow.

In that regard, the forward-thinking work being done by the International Rescue Committee and other similar organizations to rethink humanitarian relief strategy is an uplifting piece of news. Hopefully, it signals the impoverished and displaced people of the world that they are not forgotten.  

– Clarke Hallum

Photo: Flickr