Dr. Abdul Razak's speech at the IPHRC of the OIC's 8th International Seminar
This speech was delivered by our Founding Director, Dr Abdul Razak Ahmad during the 8th International Seminar on the topic of 'Islamic Perspectives on protection of Refugees - their Rights and Access to Education' from 5-6, October 2020 in Kuala Lumpur.
The annual international seminar was held by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in collaboration with one of the OIC Member States.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The global number of refugees globally is a manifestation of a very different crisis. A far more serious crisis in international cooperation. The poorest of the low-income countries are currently shouldering the heaviest burden. Nine of the ten biggest refugee host countries are those with low or medium incomes. And Germany is the only exception to this. Out of the world's 195 countries, only 20 per cent are involved in the management and assistance of the more than 100 million refugees worldwide.
This is despite the Geneva Convention of July 1951 stating that the Status of Refugees applies to us all indiscriminately. The figure of 100 million is not just merely a number or a statistic. Those numbers represent people, their lives, and collectively - their human stories. In the words of the former German Foreign Minister, those 'statistics are human beings with tears wiped away. Therefore, this meeting must reaffirm our greater solidarity in managing the refugee crisis.
We require greater international collaboration, not just bilateral cooperation between states. Greater multilateralism and greater involvement of state and non-state actors, civil society, and business enterprises are key to solving this global crisis. It is time that we come together to improve refugees' prospects for the future. To do so, we need to change how we look at refugee.
One thing that is always associated with the refugee community is resilience. Thus, we should start by establishing a targeted effort to improve the prospects of those who have already demonstrated incredible resilience. Those refugees are the people who understand what it means to lose everything. To have them start from scratch is an injustice. With this in mind, let us capitalize on their resilience. Let us start on big meaningful projects to provide them with the skills and education that will prepare them with the expertise for a future workforce.
Our generation is already witnessing tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks. We cannot provide the refugee community with obsolete education and skills. It does not help them and it does not help us. We must start preparing them with life skills and knowledge that would be useful in their real-world situations.
With that, let us start an international collaborative project on a global scale that brings together international organisations, states, and business enterprises to educate the refugees with the most relevant skills and competencies. A project that would deliver the knowledge and skills suitable enough to make them relevant to the job markets. To reskill and upskill them, so that no matter where there are, they have the necessary competency and expertise to make their living and to be a useful member of society. To succeed, we need to use the latest and greatest innovation and technology. It can no longer be about physical buildings and traditional learning.
It must be powered by digitalisation. By an online ecosystem. Where issues such as their visa, personal identification and all sort of bureaucratic impediments would become irrelevant. The curriculum should be the most relevant - implementing the most sought-after super skills, and the most efficient method in delivering them knowledge. This must be a project that defines our generation - it is about how we have come together to address the most serious humanitarian crisis of this century.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This may sound ambitious but we should believe in big ideas. Have we forgotten that more than 300,000 people worked to put a man on the moon – including janitors working at NASA! It was just in the last two years that millions of volunteers, government officials, medical experts, scientists, and politicians, from all around the world, came together and helped create a COVID vaccine and embarked on the most ambitious and most successful immunization project in history.
These kinds of projects provided a purpose for the people doing those jobs. But it also gave our whole world a sense of pride that we could achieve amazing feats when we collaborate. Now it's our turn to do great things. Great things by the Muslim world for the global communities, irrespective of race, religion, or nationality. I know, you will start asking how we are going to start working on this project on a global scale.
Who can help? The partners, the funders, and the coordinating agency? What are the best approaches? What are the best models of skills and knowledge to be taught and delivered to those that are the most destitute, the most vulnerable? And the challenge of connecting to them, all over the world, across global geography poses its infrastructural challenges.
How, more importantly, are we going to convince and mobilise the technology companies, the states, and the civil society, to join us in this journey? The answer is no one does when they begin. Ideas are imperfect and don't come out fully formed. They only become clearer and defined as you work on them. I am not here today, appearing before very distinguished officials and observers from the Muslim world, with a ready, solved solution.
Therefore, I am here to convince you that we must explore the most unorthodox way to solve the long overdue problem of empowering the refugee community. And if the states can't do it, let us work with our entrepreneurs. Let us talk to the most successful companies like Meta, Google, Apple, Samsung, Sony, and the like. Let us tell them that we have a shared moral purpose in undertaking this. However, we must be prepared to be misunderstood too.
Anyone working on a complex problem is always blamed for not fully understanding the challenge. But realistically, it's impossible to know everything upfront. In our Muslim society, we often don't do big things. That is why we are not the most advanced economically, technologically, and even intellectually. All because we are so afraid of making mistakes. The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that should not keep us from starting.
A global project, bringing together the OIC in partnership with the most successful technology companies, civil society, member states, and renowned philanthropists to provide a multi-faceted solution to refugee education and skill-building requires our generation-defining public works.
Let us work on it in a way that gives everyone in our society a role. Let's do big things, not only to create progress but to create purpose. We need a new deal for a great Muslim society. Now it's our time to define a new social contract not only for our generation but for the generations to come too. A society that measures progress should not only depend on economic metrics but also on our ability to provide for the most destitute and the most vulnerable members of our global society.
To conclude, No one country can help educate refugees alone. It is a global crisis that now requires us to come together - not just as nations, but also as a global community. The fact that people flee from war, hunger, natural disasters or persecution is as old as humanity itself. It will not go away. However, it is my hope that by acting in concert, we can deliver our global community a decisive victory.
Embark on a global project to empower refugees with education and skill-building