Tuesday 20 February 2018

Obama: World must do more to help refugees

US President Barack Obama cited his outreach to former adversaries Cuba and Myanmar as examples of progress. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama cited his outreach to former adversaries Cuba and Myanmar as examples of progress. Photo: Reuters

Rachael Alexander New York

US President Barack Obama has told world leaders they have to do more to open their hearts to refugees who are desperate for a home.

Mr Obama said the world was more secure if leaders were prepared to help people in need. But they had to follow through even when the politics were hard.

He says leaders must have the empathy to imagine what it would be like for their families if the unspeakable were to happen.

The UN estimates there are about 21.3 million refugees forced to flee due to armed conflict or persecution.

Mr Obama warned that the forces of globalisation have exposed "deep fault lines" across the globe, calling for a "course correction" to ensure that nations and their peoples do not retreat into a more sharply divided world.

Mr Obama, in his final speech to the UN General Assembly, lamented that the world has become safer and more prosperous at the same time that nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East.

He said governing had become more difficult as people lost faith in public institutions and tensions among nations spiralled out of control rapidly.

"This is the paradox that defines the world today," Mr Obama said. "We must go forward, and not backward."

Mr Obama sought to use his last appearance before the global body to define how his leadership had put the world on a better trajectory over the last eight years.

At the heart of that approach, Mr Obama said, was the notion that the biggest conflicts were best solved when nations cooperated rather than tackling them individually.

It is a theme that Democrat Hillary Clinton has put at the forefront of her campaign for president, casting herself as the natural continuation of Mr Obama's legacy.

In a subtle reference to her opponent, Donald Trump, Mr Obama bemoaned how terrorist networks had spread their ideology on social media, spurring anger toward "innocent immigrants and Muslims".

The president cited his administration's outreach to former adversaries Cuba and Myanmar as key examples of progress, along with global cooperation to cut emissions blamed for global warming.

At the same time, he said he wasn't seeking to "whitewash" challenges across the globe, some of which he attributed to deepening anxieties about the profound shifts inflicted by technology and growing international interdependence.

"In order to move forward, though, we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course correction," Mr Obama added.

Irish Independent

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