The displacement paradox: good refugees, bad migrants. Where can the unwanted go? | Dr Jemilah Mahmood (Under Secretary General for Partnership, IFRC)

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About the lecture

Migration is set to become one of the defining features of the 21st century. The combined impact of crises, poverty, inequality and violence around the world has led to unprecedented numbers of people fleeing their homes in search of safety, better living conditions and employment opportunities. At the same time, significant gaps exist in humanitarian protection vis-à-vis the increasing numbers of migrants who do not fit into conventional categories of international protection. This phenomenon is further exacerbated by increasing negative attitudes towards migrants. As States scale up their border controls, where do you turn to when you become the world’s most unwanted? Why has the world turned a blind eye towards the significant – and evidence-based – litany of abuses faced by people on the move: death, arbitrary detention, rape, trafficking, violence…to name just a few.

All people who leave their homes—for whatever reason—deserve our respect and our support: this is the essence of the Fundamental Principles of Humanity and is why the approach of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is one of helping migrants in need irrespective of their status.

As the internal community is attempting to work better together on this challenging issue – including through the negotiation of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees – we as a global community need to ask some important questions:

  • How can we do more to support the safety, well-being and dignity of refugees and vulnerable migrants?
  • How can we build on experiences and good practices – of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other humanitarian and development actors?
  • How can we address negative perceptions about migrants?
  • Who can be our potential partners? Migrants and refugees and host communities? The private sector? Youth? Entrepreneurs? New humanitarian donors?
  • How can we bring about these changes in a way that has a real impact on the lives of the most vulnerable?

About the speaker

Dr Jemilah Mahmood began her mandate as Under Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in January 2016.

Before joining the IFRC, Dr Mahmood was the Chief of the World Humanitarian Summit secretariat at the United Nations in New York. She is well known as the founder of MERCY Malaysia, which she led from 1999-2009. Her previous appointments include Chief of the Humanitarian Response Branch at UNFPA, Senior Fellow at Malaysia’s Sovereign, and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Humanitarian Futures Programme at Kings College in London. In 2006, she was one of 16 members appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to the Advisory Group of the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Dr Mahmood has held many Board positions in NGOs and INGOs and is the recipient of numerous national and international awards for her contribution to civil society and work in support of marginalized communities. She is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Foundation, both in the United Kingdom. She was recently appointed as a board member to the Responsible Finance Institute.

Dr Mahmood is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists United Kingdom.

How to register

The podcast of the lecture is available here: