World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim has called for a global response to Syrian refugee crisis
He says his organization is prepared to lead in coordinating a response
He says delegates are starting to grasp the long-term benefits of health and education investment
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The president of the World Bank has called for a concerted global effort to help Syria’s refugees, saying the international community has failed to formulate an adequate response.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jim Yong Kim told CNN’s Richard Quest that the situation was a “humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions, and right now we are not responding effectively.”
“In Lebanon now a quarter of the population are refugees,” said Kim. “It would be as if twice the population of Canada came into the United States in a two year period… (Lebanon is) going to lose $7.5 billion in terms of GDP growth. The number of unemployed people in Lebanon – Lebanese – has doubled.”
The UNHCR says more than 2 million Syrians have fled their homeland since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, with most taking refuge in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Reports have found many refugee children living without a father, and some without parents altogether.
Kim said the response to the crisis had failed due to a lack of funds, but also due to a lack of leadership and concerted effort.
“There are many political difficulties in deciding who’s going to step up, who’s going to provide the funds. We have given all the money we can under the rules of the World Bank and we now need others to step up,” Kim said.
His organization was “happy to lead” the effort, he said.
Kim also reiterated the need to address inequality, a hot topic at the World Economic Forum.
“Two and a half billion people in the world don’t have access to financial services. This is a bank account. Not having the ability to save is a huge problem,” he said. “Eighty percent of people in Africa don’t have access to energy. You cannot participate in the global market if you don’t have access to reliable energy.”
There were encouraging signs that some in attendance grasped the long-term economic benefits of investing in health and education.
“People are now understanding that education is going to determine the competitive abilities of a country into the future, but still many finance ministers are looking at the short term. They’re looking at it as an expense,” he said.
“We’ve got to help them fundamentally change that view, and as they fall behind they’re going to get it.”