By Lorna Solis, Member of the Global Future Council on The Future of the Humanitarian System of the World Economic Forum
Imagine this: when conflict happens, and people flee, they know that – when they reach safety – they will be welcomed sympathetically and efficiently assigned to a safe, stable country, according to an agreed quota. Each country has a system to integrate new arrivals seamlessly into society, with a bank account, an initial stipend and support to find employment.
Imagine schoolchildren learning about a bygone age when refugees were treated differently: confined to open-air prisons; prevented by walls and soldiers from reaching a country where they might work and earn; and, if they slip through, living in fear of the law and resented by locals. School trips go to 2016-era refugee camps, preserved for posterity, and kids are amazed that previous generations could have been so hard-hearted and fearful of their fellow humans.
Syrian refugees turned CEOs
Perhaps such a world will exist, one day. But even in optimistic moods, I cannot imagine it by 2030. So what, realistically, might the refugee situation look like then?
It will be different. In particular, Syria is likely no longer to loom so large. Perhaps many of today’s Syrian refugees will be back home, rebuilding. Many will have made successes of themselves in the West – they’ll be CEOs, often employing fellow Syrians, as refugee businesses have always done. So, if Syrian refugee flows continue in 2030, Syrian-run businesses will help mitigate the problem.
Refugees from other current hotspots – Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan – have lower average education levels, so their entrepreneurial success stories may be fewer by 2030. But they will exist, and these communities will be more organized than they are now and better equipped to help their countryfolk if the same countries are still producing refugees.