Can we really eliminate the causes of refugee flight?

Foto: radekprocyk /

  • 22.5 million refugees 
  • 65.6 million violently displaced people  
  • 10 million people who are stateless 
  • 28,300 people forced to flee conflict and persecution every day 

These figures, published by the United Nations Commission on Refugees in mid-2017, are almost impossible for us to comprehend. However, they may become more tangible to us when we receive further information from refugees themselves about their experiences during their flight and their new life in their countries of arrival. For example, “Humans of New York – Refugee Stories” , or the project “The New Arrivals” by Spiegel Online, Le Monde, the Guardian and El País, bring us closer to the lives and concerns of people who have had to leave their home country. 

The crucial questions are: How can this situation be improved? How can the causes of flight be eliminated in the long term, so that people no longer have to leave their country involuntarily? The reasons why people flee, usually based on an existential fear for their own life and that of their family, can be very different: war, violence, persecution, hunger – and, increasingly, the consequences of climate change. 

Five core messages of the 2030 Agenda 

The United Nations has not included a single goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that is devoted exclusively to the situation of refugees. However, the 17 goals address the central causes of flight and the 2030 Agenda calls for an overall transformation of our world in five core areas, which are referred to as the "five Ps": 

  • People: Ending hunger and poverty and ensuring that all people can realise their potential in dignity and equality in a healthy environment 
  • Planet: Protecting the planet by limiting climate change and preserving natural resources 
  • Prosperity: Promoting prosperity for all and shaping globalisation fairly 
  • Peace: Promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies, since peace is central to sustainable development – and, vice versa, sustainable development is central to peace 
  • Partnership: The implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires strong global partnerships based on strong global solidarity and integration 

In the course of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has been signed by 193 countries, we are therefore called upon to find solutions to the problems that cause flight, even if this task does not seem likely to be achieved at present. The transformational aspect of the 2030 Agenda is particularly important in this context: to achieve sustainable development, we need new approaches to solving the challenges, new forms of cooperation, and also new forms of financing, in order to achieve this necessary fundamental change. 

Foundation work 

In recent months I have been able to get to know many member foundations of the Association of German Foundations that are doing outstanding work in areas that combat the causes of flight: working in crisis countries; strengthening entrepreneurship and income generation; doing work relating to climate change; strengthening women's rights; working in the fields of education, renewable energies and health; and much more. The work of foundations is a very important part of the fight against the causes of flight. In this context, exchange, mutual learning and cooperation through partnerships are necessary – and we need more of these than currently takes place. 

In order to further advance this important work we would like you to share your valuable experience with us and the members of the Association of German Foundations. You can do this via our social networks or via email. 

Over the course of the year we will share with you various experiences of foundation work in this area, through this blog, to provide examples of ways of effectively combating the causes of flight.

Dr. Annette Kleinbrod

EZ-Scout of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) seconded to the Association of German Foundations

Telefon (030) 89 79 47-0

More information

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