Every year, on June 20th, the United Nations observes World Refugee Day. Some countries also organize an annual refuge week.

Refugee Day

Burmese refugees march on World Refugee Day.

In the UK, the refuge week is from the 18th to the 24th of June. Refuge week is a time to recognize the hardships, determination, and courage of people who are forced to leave their homes due to war and oppression. Moreover, in the UK, refuge week is a time to celebrate the various contributions refugees bring to the country. The Telegraph lists ten examples of refugee contributions, among which are the following:

– One of Britain’s most famous buildings, Hampton Court Palace, was designed by a French Huguenot refugee.

– It is believed that fish and chips was brought over in the 17th century by Jewish refugees from Portugal.

– Hip-hop musician, political activist and designer M.I.A. is a Sri Lankan refugee.

– A son of an Italian refugee designed the Millennium Dome.

In 2011, there was a 20% increase in the amount of asylum seekers around the world. The on-going conflict in Afghanistan means that the country has more asylum seekers than any other country in the world. In 2011 alone 36,000 Afghans requested asylum. Other examples of countries producing a high number of asylum requests are Serbia, China, and Pakistan. United States, France, and Germany received the most requests for international protection. In 2011, UK was the seventh biggest receiver.

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  The first IWD was launched by a woman named Clara Zetkin (German) in 1911. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, IWD is a national holiday. However, the plight of women and the hardship they still face in many countries is highlighted by many organisations – see below.

Global issues facing women include:

  • Females in developing countries on average carry 20 litres of water per day over 6 km
  • Globally, women account for the majority of people aged over 60 and over 80
  • Pregnant women in Africa are 180 times more likely to die than in Western Europe
  • 530,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year
  • Of 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide, 70% are women
  • 80% of the world’s 27 million refugees are women
  • Women own around only 1% of the world’s land
  • AIDS sees women’s average life expectancy reduced to 43 in Uganda and Zambia
  • Women are 2/3 of the 1 billion+ illiterate adults who have no access to basic education
  • Read Fakhria Ibrahimi’s account of the plight of women in Afghanisaton
  • Official  International Women’s Day site – see how you can help bring about change in the world.

    Photograph by web/graphic designer Melanie Cook, used with permission. Thank you!

    Undoutedly, events like 9/11, the London and Madrid bombings, along with the terrorist attacks in Mombai and the Philippines, to name just a few, have changed many attitudes towards other cultures and the peoples that live in some distant lands. Will conflict between civilisations be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world? Samuel Huntingdon argues that the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict, in this century, will be cultural – not ideological or economic as in the last century.

    So what does this actually mean?  Well, let’s take a step back…