The plight of refugees across the world is often swept under the carpet as global focus is diverted to other international challenges, particularly climate change.
This is according to the winner of the 2017 International Children’s Peace Prize, 19-year-old Mohamad Al Jounde, who was speaking at this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
“Of course we have been discussing a lot about climate change, it is such a crucial issue nowadays especially in the World Economic Forum. [The WEF] has a lot of emphasis on it. As a refugee, there is a really important issue when we work with climate change, which is that I cannot demand refugees to care about climate change – they have to get education first,” said the former Syrian refugee, who also won MTV’s Generation Change Award in 2018.
“It is concerning that all the emphasis is on climate change – from business to government – people are forgetting refugees in the sense that they are forgetting the struggles that refugees face like finding education, like finding work. You cannot solve climate change if you can’t solve those problems first because refugees make a huge part of the population around the world and we could lift them up to a certain socio-economic level …”
Mohamad is one of the teenage "change-makers" making waves at Davos 2020.
According to the WEF, Mohamad grew up in Syria but fled to Lebanon when life became too dangerous at home. Like thousands of other refugee children in the country, he couldn’t go to school, so he set out to support children in the same situation. Together with his family, then 12-year old Mohamad built a school in a refugee camp where 200 children now access their right to an education.
Mohamad, who has now moved to Sweden, helps children to heal, learn and have fun with games and photography.
On Wednesday, he was part of a panel discussing refugees and migration at the summit. He made an appeal to global leaders and business leaders to not forget refugees.
The WEF meeting brings together some 3 000 business leaders, international political leaders, economists, celebrities and journalists for several days to discuss global issues across 500 public and private sessions. The current sitting is running from January 21 to 24.
The annual gathering in the Alps ski resort is often criticized as an expensive talk show and a symbol of global capitalism.
This year, South Africa’s finance minister Tito Mboweni and international relations minister Naledi Pandor are leading Pretoria’s delegation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa did not attend in order to focus on "pressing domestic priorities".