For the first time, over one hundred million refugees in the world, reported by a press release from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. One hundred million, just over one percent of the earth’s population.
The immediate reason for the increase is Putin’s war in Ukraine, which has forced fourteen million to flee, of which a little less than half have been forced to leave the country.
Neighbouring countries, and especially Poland, have done what they could. The European Union has also stepped up and so far there are no signs that solidarity in Europe with Ukraine is breaking down..
The treatment of refugees from Ukraine is light after several years of pitch-black refugee debate. But at the same time, nine out of ten refugees in the world seem to have been forgotten, and crisis after crisis has disappeared from view.
Nearly seven million are still fleeing abroad after Syria’s civil war and just as many are internally displaced in the country. In Yemen, four million internally displaced persons and twenty million are in need of humanitarian aid. In Afghanistan, as many as twenty-four million, but still half the population, need help.
In the last twenty-five years, the number of refugees in the world has tripled. This is mainly due to war and conflict, but if we look ahead, climate change is likely to play an increasing role.
If you read scenarios from the UN climate panel, the situation looks scary, to say the least, if you pull out the data. We got a taste of the spring with the heatwave in India and Pakistan with temperatures of almost fifty degrees Celsius.
The human body is not built to withstand such temperatures for any length of time. For young children, the elderly and pregnant women, they can be directly life-threatening.
The spring heatwave was just a foretaste, if you read the researchers’ models, this could become the new normal in parts of the world. Then one hundred million refugees in the world are probably just the beginning.
Perhaps the worst consequence of Putin’s war will be not the violence itself, but all its horrors and abuses, or the influx of refugees.
Without the global rearmament.
The money that was needed for health care and school for people and for climate change will now be diverted to new weapon systems and missiles that you can not afford to use.
There are any particularly good alternatives right now. Ukraine must be given weapons in its defence, otherwise, the scenes we have seen in Butja, Irpin and Mariupol will be repeated throughout the country.
We already know what Russian terror means.
We in Sweden also need to upgrade both our civilian and military defences because we are unfortunately next door to the Russian. And everywhere in the world, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have exactly the same effect.
In Europe, of course, but also in Japan, as well as in South Korea and Australia. When India armies, so will Pakistan. If Iran succeeds in developing an atomic bomb, Saudi Arabia will also learn to build one.
And so on. This was the world we grew up in. The world of the Cold War.
We knew where the shelter was and that we would lie down under the school bench in the event of a nuclear attack. Now the next generation will soon learn it too when we have built new shelters of course. The old ones must have run out.
This new world is nothing to welcome. But now it’s here. And we are like a vice stuck in the logic of war machines. For the first time, over one hundred million people are fleeing the world. How many are there in ten years? Twice as many, three times?
Of course, this is not a given. Russia can still lose the war so thoroughly that it no longer poses a threat. Like Nazi Germany after World War II. Or Putin is overthrown and replaced by someone more democratic.
But it should probably be written on the account of pious hopes.
It is more likely that we need to get used to and find strategies for a very different future than when we toasted 2022 and looked forward to the end of the pandemic.
In his speech to the Bundestag, the German parliament, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz used the word Zeitenwende, or “turning point” in English.
But Zeitenwende means more than just something new in general. Time turns leaves, and a new era begins. Politically, it was a foreign policy revolution he delivered with a whole new Germany in the middle of Europe.
I do not think we really understand how much changed on 24 February. But the geopolitical continental plates that are now in motion are enormously much larger. The last Cold War lasted for over forty years, half a human life.
Is there then no light in the tunnel?
We want to believe that it does after all. There are goals we have lost that can be picked up again, such as putting more effort into achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Yesterday’s political tools are still there. We can make the EU’s post-pandemic recovery program the biggest effort for climate change ever. We can continue to be a voice in the world for human dignity, democracy and peace.
And when every hundred people on earth right now are a refugee, we can help significantly more than today. For many people, the light in the tunnel can be us.