Ahead of the United Nations' first-ever summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, actress and War Child UK ambassador Carey Mulligan spoke passionately about the rights of refugee and displaced children. Speaking ahead of a panel in New York on Sunday night, Mulligan urged those in attendance to come together to put pressure on world leaders to do more for children forced to flee.
"Children and their families are faced with an impossible choice," she said. "To risk their lives if they stay in countries where civilians are being routinely targeted and where schools and hospitals are attacked on a weekly basis. Or to leave and to expose their children to the threat of sexual violence. Of being recruited into armed groups."
Mulligan, ahead of this week's event, including President Barack Obama's leaders' summit on refugees, called for a global action plan that allocated finances for education and emergencies, that assured that no protection program for children on the move fails for lack of finance, that held donor countries responsible for resettling their fair share of refugees and to establish safe and legal routes to help displaced families be reunited and that promised that no child forced to flee will ever be criminalized.
"They shouldn't have to be brave. They shouldn't have to have courage or show resilience," Mulligan said of Syrian refugee children she visited in Jordan and the others who make up the 28 million pulled from their homes by conflict. "They shouldn't have to fear for their lives or their future, and they most certainly should not have to suffer alone in a slum."
Standing less than a mile from the United Nations, Mulligan pleaded with those in attendance to take on the problems facing children refugees as their own. "What we need is for world leaders to start standing up for children's rights," she said. "Standing up for their right to education, to be safe and free from fear, to have a family life and to be properly listened to."
Matthew Rycroft, U.K. Ambassador and Permanent Representative for the U.K. mission to the UN, was the evening's second keynote speaker, fielding questions afterward as to why it has taken so long to act while the refugee crisis has built over the course of several years. He responded by saying that pressures to act had reached a boiling point and that the underlying issues are complex.
A panel was then held with Anne-Marie Gray, executive director and CEO of USA for UNHCR; IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes; Lilianne Ploumen, the minister for foreign trade and development cooperation for the Netherlands; Salim Salamah, director of the Palestinian League for Human Rights; and Leila Zerrougui, appointed special representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, with a brief Q&A session following.