Refugees Magazine Issue 130 (Sri Lanka - The Road to Recovery) - Editorial: "Don't forget us if Iraq happens..."
More than a quarter of a million civilians returned home in the last year following two decades of war in Sri Lanka.
In Afghanistan more than two million people went back in 2002 and UNHCR expects to help a further 1.5 million this year.
A massive repatriation will start shortly in Angola - yet another country where war persisted for decades and where a peaceful outcome at times seemed highly unlikely.
That is the good news. However, as this magazine went to press conflict in the Middle East began with the threat of the creation of hundreds of thousands of new refugees. There were fears the conflict would dominate not only world headlines, but also the attention and purse strings of traditional donors which help uprooted people in all corners of the globe.
In such circumstances, funding for ongoing refugee operations sometimes suffers and the military and political fallout from the 'new' emergency also spills over.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai articulated the concerns of governments, humanitarian officials and refugees alike in the build-up to war when he urged the United States: "Don't forget us if Iraq happens." The situations in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Angola are both delicate and extremely promising. Tens of thousands of persons were killed and millions fled their homes in wars which lasted for generations. But within a few months of each other, hopes for peaceful solutions blossomed. This hope will only come to full bloom with the continued attention and assistance of global goodwill.
Around half of the world's displaced persons - some 20 million people - are children and what is loosely termed 'young people' between the ages of 13 and 25.
There are a myriad of agencies and international laws to protect the children of this group, but relatively little attention has been paid toward the problems of youth.
Which is a great pity. At a sensitive time in their lives, when they are completing their social, education and sexual personas, young people find themselves particularly vulnerable to various forms of exploitation.
To highlight not only their special needs, but also the key roles they will play in the development of their local communities and nations - whether they return to their ancestral homes or begin life in a new country - this year's World Refugee Day on June 20 is dedicated to youth.
Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 130: "Sri Lanka - The Road to Recovery" (April 2003).