Stephen J. Hadley, Hon. Madeleine K. Albright, H.E. David Miliband, Hon. Nancy Lindborg

For Immediate Release: Sep. 18, 2015
Diane Zeleny
202-429-3869 (o)

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley joined other speakers at the U.S. Institute of Peace today in denouncing the political failures that have led to the current refugee crisis in Europe.  The two former officials, who lead the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force, urged intensified efforts not only to improve the condition of people forced from their homes by war but also to resolve the conflicts themselves.

Hadley, the chairman of USIP’s board, moderated a discussion that included Albright, USIP President Nancy Lindborg, former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Mayor Antoine Frem of the city of Jounieh in Lebanon, a country that has taken in 1.2 million refugees from the war in Syria, making up fully a quarter of the population. Frem noted that the proportion would be the equivalent of the U.S. taking in 90 million refugees.

The discussion, co-sponsored by the Atlantic Council and USIP, focused on how the United States and its partners should respond to the European refugee crisis. Lindborg noted that U.N. figures show 60 million people are displaced worldwide due to wars, conflict and persecution. The U.N. refugee agency ranks it as the greatest displacement of people since World War II. Speakers at today’s discussion noted that the roots of the current crisis in Europe run back to the conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa.

“Recent events have proven once and for all that the destruction of whole societies in the Middle East is not a regional problem, but a global crisis,” Albright said. “And it is a crisis that is not only a humanitarian emergency, but also a political emergency. It is a series of political failures that have led to the grave situation that we find today.”

The European conundrum over how to deal with the flood of some half million refugees arriving at their borders helps “refocus attention, resources and energy to address these critical issues in the region that is really at the roots of the crisis,” said Lindborg, who just returned from a visit to Iraq, where the Kurdish region has been overwhelmed by fully half of the 3 million Iraqis who fled their home in the past year’s onslaught of the self-styled Islamic State extremist group. Displaced Iraqis now make up a quarter of the Kurdish region’s population.

Today’s event was the third public hearing of the Middle East Strategy Task Force, a bipartisan Atlantic Council initiative that includes USIP and other institutions. It aims to develop a long-term framework for U.S. policy in the broader Middle East to support a stable, prosperous order based on resilient, legitimate, well-governed states.

Lindborg is a senior advisor to the task force. Manal Omar, USIP’s acting vice president for the Middle East and Africa, is convener of the task force working group on Rebuilding Societies: Refugees, Recovery, and Reconciliation in Times of Conflict. Elie Abouaoun, director of USIP’s Middle East programs, is co-convener of that working group.

Omar, an American with Palestinian roots, told of her parents’ journey through five countries “in search of a better life” and of growing up in an environment “where displacement and a thirst for a home was part of our daily life.” “It’s time for the donor community – and we’d like to also include the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, the European Union and the United States – to make courageous political decisions. One is by making the clear commitment to refugee burden sharing, making a long-term commitment to supporting people’s resilience, with an acknowledgement that humanitarian aid in the short-term alone will not [suffice].”

Miliband, the son of refugees who now serves as president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and also is a senior advisor to the task force, focused along with the other panelists on steps needed to address the crisis at its roots -- the wars, poverty and failures of governance that have uprooted 19 million people across the Middle East and North Africa.

The immediate crisis is not only massive, but long-term, panelists said. The United States and its partners should begin immediately the groundwork for a transformation in the Middle East that can halt the dislocation at its sources.

A video recording of the event, including Omar’s outlining of her working group’s findings, will be available here. Lindborg laid out her observations in a commentary published today on the Peace Channel, a joint initiative with USIP on For more information on the Middle East Strategy Task Force, see the home page.

To request interviews with USIP experts, please contact Diane Zeleny, 202-429-3869.

And continue the conversation on Twitter with #BeyondRefugees and #ACMEST.

Related News

USIP Peace Teachers Program Announces 2019 Cohort

Friday, July 12, 2019

News Type: Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – For young people living in Ketchikan, AK; Greenup, KY; Ridgeland, MS; and O’Neill, NE, news of talks with North Korea, a protest movement in Hong Kong, or the overthrow of a dictator in Sudan may feel like a world away. Four high school teachers from these communities, selected to take part in a U.S. Institute of Peace program, will spend the next school year bringing critical international issues of conflict such as these to life, while also empowering their students to see peace as something practical and possible.

Education & Training

Bipartisan Group of National Security Experts Calls for New Approach to Preventing Extremism

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

News Type: Press Release

Tuesday, February 26, 2019, Washington, DC – A bipartisan group of senior national security experts today made an urgent appeal for the adoption of a new approach to preventing the rise and spread of extremism in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and the Near East. This new approach is set out in the congressionally mandated final report and recommendations of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States, hosted by the United States Institute of Peace. The Task Force proposes a comprehensive preventive strategy to stop the spread of extremism that reorganizes U.S. efforts and pools international resources to support partners in fragile states in tackling the drivers of extremism.

Fragility & Resilience

USIP Convenes Inaugural Syria Study Group Meeting

Thursday, February 21, 2019

News Type: Press Release

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is pleased to announce it will convene the inaugural meeting of the Congressionally mandated bipartisan Syria Study Group (SSG) on February 28.

National Defense Strategy Commission Releases Its Review of 2018 National Defense Strategy

National Defense Strategy Commission Releases Its Review of 2018 National Defense Strategy

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

News Type: Press Release

The National Defense Strategy Commission (NDSC), a congressionally mandated panel charged with examining and making recommendations with respect to the national defense strategy for the United States and whose work has been facilitated by the United States Institute of Peace, released its final report on November 14, 2018.

Peace Teachers Program Announces 2018 Cohort

Peace Teachers Program Announces 2018 Cohort

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

News Type: Press Release

USIP has chosen Ryan Adams of Chelsea High School in Chelsea, AL; Casandra Bates of Centennial High School in Franklin, TN; JoAnne Bohl of West Central High School in Hartford, SD; and Jennifer O'Boyle of Klahowya Secondary School in Silverdale, WA, to participate in the 2018 Peace Teachers Program. Over the course of the next school year, they will receive training, resources, and support to strengthen their teaching of international conflict management and peacebuilding.

Education & Training

View All News