Human Displacement Soars: An Ominous Harbinger?
According to the annual Global Trends report from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2013—51.2 million—was higher than in any other year since World War II. Three subgroups make up this total. 16.7 million were refugees, with Afghans, Palestinians, Somalis, and Syrians accounting for approximately three-fourths of the total. Another 1.2 million were asylum seekers, with the largest populations coming from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burma. The largest subgroup—at 33.3 million—were the internally displaced, those who have been forced to flee their homes but who remain within their country’s borders. Armed conflict, climate change, population growth, urbanization, and food and water insecurity all drove the increased displacement, often in overlapping ways. The UNHCR stressed that this crisis in displacement was severely straining the capacities of humanitarian organizations. Unfortunately, however, many of the factors driving the crisis are unlikely to abate, given the environmental degradation and social conflict associated with the volatile transformation now underway to the Planetary Phase of civilization. This very real precursor of a possible barbarized future demands a redoubling of efforts to advance an alternative world of human solidarity and justice.