War Torn: Confronting the Problems of the NationlessRoundup
tags: Russia, war, Ukraine, refugees, nationalism, stateless persons, displaced persons
Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Type Media Center. He is the author most recently of Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan and of the bestselling Kill Anything That Moves.
We live on a planet in motion, a world of collision and drift. This was once an Earth of super-continents — Gondwana, Rodinia, Pangea. The eastern seaboard of the United States sidled up against West Africa, while Antarctica cozied up to the opposite side of the African continent. But nothing in this world lasts and the tectonic plates covering the planet are always in motion. Suddenly — over the course of hundreds of millions of years — supercontinents cease to be super, breaking into smaller land masses that drift off to the far corners of the world.
More recently, those itinerant continents were carved up by human beings into countries. A couple — China and India — are now home to more than a billion people each. But even modest-sized nations can be massive in their own right. Spain and Canada, neighbors in Pangea hundreds of millions of years ago, now have populations of almost 47 million and nearly 38 million, respectively, making them the 30th and 39th most populous countries on this planet. But together, they’re no larger than a nation-less nation, a state of the stateless that exists only as a state of mind. I’m talking about the victims of conflict now adrift on the margins of our world.
The number of people forcibly displaced by war, persecution, general violence, or human-rights violations last year swelled to a staggering 84 million, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. If they formed their own country, it would be the 17th largest in the world, slightly bigger than Iran or Germany. Add in those driven across borders by economic desperation and the number balloons past one billion, placing it among the three largest nations on Earth.
This “nation” of the dispossessed is only expected to grow, according to a new report by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), an aid organization focused on displacement. Their forecast, which covers 26 high-risk countries, predicts that the number of displaced people will increase by almost three million this year and nearly four million in 2023. This means that, in the decade between 2014 and 2023, the displaced population on this planet will have almost doubled, growing by more than 35 million people. And that doesn’t even count most of the seven million-plus likely to be displaced by Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
“It is extremely worrying to see such a rapidly increasing number of displaced persons in such a short time,” said Charlotte Slente, the secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council. “This is where the international community and diplomacy need to step up. Unfortunately, we see a decreasing number of peace agreements and a lack of international attention to countries where displacement is predicted to rise most.”