Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time is a small book written by David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It makes the case for systemic solutions to the growing crisis of 65 million people who have been displaced by war and oppression. Miliband is putting the West to the test to rescue not just refugees but ourselves. He describes our response as “a test of character”.
His concern for refugees began with the plight of his own parents who were displaced as a result of World War II and were welcomed in England where he eventually became a member of Parliament and the Secretary of State. As CEO of IRC he has visited refugee camps all over the world and speaks with firsthand knowledge of the plight of displaced persons, a global crisis. The IRC has a staff of 27,000 in thirty countries.
Milband makes a point to distinguish refuges, the new global poor, from a global trend toward migration. Refugees are the victims of war and oppression which can be tracked on our smart phones in real time, a problem which he says does have a solution within a democratic international order.
The author quotes Pope Francis to illustrate why we should care. The Pope wrote of “the globalization of indifference” in reference to refugees from Africa landing on the shores of Italy. “We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces, hearing their stories…” Writings from leaders of other faiths are quoted to reinforce the need to welcome the stranger. Ignorance is no excuse according to Milband.
In addressing solutions to the global crisis, Milband promotes a unique way to spend international aid by giving it directly to refugees rather than donor groups spending it to feed them in camps. Under this system funds in the form of vouchers and debit cards allow individuals and families to make their own decisions about how to solve their problems. He admits that in some situations this is not a viable solution but it is possible and has shown to be successful.
The global crisis represented by the increasing number of refugees is, according to Milband, a moral and political crisis which requires individuals to take a stand and for international institutions to mobilize resources to address the problems. We did it after World War II and we need to do it again.
Milband sums it well: This is a fight for international cooperation over unilateral grandstanding, for the benefits of pluralism over the tyranny of groupthink, and for the enduring importance of universal values over the slicing and dicing of populations and religions in a fake and faulty clash of civilizations.”
Compare this to the discourse in US media at this time!