If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.
Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.
Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:
Middle East and North Africa
For the last six weeks or so I have been more or less full time engaged in thinking about how we can generate employment opportunities for Syrians in countries that are hosting them, particularly those located in Syria’s near neighbors. I have reflected on my experience in working on private sector development in Syria nearly a decade ago. As someone who had worked in virtually every country in the Middle East I was amazed at the country’s industrial potential.
The collapse of oil prices to levels unseen since the early 2000s has shaken markets and confidence in the health of major economies. Expert opinions about the factors driving the steep descent in oil prices include the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran. Yet, there is no consensus on the extent to which Iran’s return to markets has affected oil prices or the welfare of affected parties.
MENA has always had low private investment both domestic and foreign. However, the political and economic unrests post the ‘Arab Spring’ raised the necessity of a dynamic and growing private sector than ever before. The dominant economic role of the public sector in MENA cannot endure, especially with the escalating unemployment rates, budget deficits, heavy dependence on food and manufactured imports, vulnerability to oil and foreign currency swings besides the challenging social and political environments.
Measuring the impact of war on Syria is an ongoing challenge as the conflict continues to devastate the lives of people and their communities. However, efforts to understand the nature and extent of the damage are essential for identifying immediate needs, and for preparing reconstruction plans that can be launched at the first sign of peace.
In February 2015 a blog in these pages tried to draw attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. This was before the drastic cuts in aid over 2015 by severely underfunded humanitarian agencies and before the massive refugee influx into Europe. For Syria’s neighboring countries, Europe’s “refugee crisis” was only the latest stage of a much bigger crisis they had been weathering since 2011. That same blog had also called for greater outside support for Jordan and its host communities - as well as for the refugees - and there are encouraging signs on both fronts, even as the severity of the crisis continues to grow.
Concentrated Solar Power is the greatest energy technology you have probably never heard of. While it may not be as widely known as other renewable energy sources, there’s no doubting its potential - the International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.
And this week in Morocco, the King, His Majesty Mohammed VI, is officially opening the first phase of what will eventually be the largest CSP plant in the world – the same size as Morocco’s capital city Rabat. I congratulate Morocco for taking a leadership role that has placed it on the frontlines of a revolution that is bringing low-carbon development to emerging and developing economies worldwide.
In collaboration with the World Bank and the African Development Bank, the CIF has already provided US$435 million into this three-phase Noor CSP complex in Morocco.
As the world struggles to cope with the stream of refugees coming out of Syria, there is an urgent need to advance education opportunities. This is not to just thwart radicalization, as United Nations special envoy for global education Gordon Brown argues, but to ensure that we invest in building refugee children’s human capital.
In 2014, a Cooperation Protocol was signed by the Egyptian Ministry of Education, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, and the Oasis International school, a private school established in 1989 to build a model public school known as the Egyptian International School—El Marag, offering the IB program.
Have you ever thought that your camera phone can actually capture more than the ordinary? Did you know that with just one snap you might be able to save lives and lift people out of hardship and poverty?
Yes, you can! At least one stranger in downtown Beirut believed so.