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A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

New IRC Report: Nine Ways Biden Can Help 235 Million of World's Most Vulnerable, Restoring "Soul of America," and Advancing US Interests

IRC calls for rejection of failed “America First” Trump legacy, warns Biden against ignoring the rest of the world amidst domestic crisesIRC analysts identify nine critical humanitarian policy opportunities where US leadership is desperately needed, from COVID-19 to refugee assistanceIRC warns Biden administration may be “last chance” to prove when the US leads it galvanizes other nations to raise the bar across aid, diplomacy and refugee protection


The International Rescue Committee (IRC) urges President Joe Biden that delivering on "restoring the soul of America" means acting on major change to the way the US engages and provides aid in the world's worst crisis zones.

After four years of US retreat, the IRC is calling for American ideas, muscle, diplomacy and finance to solve global problems that if left unaddressed will haunt Biden's domestic political agenda, through COVID-19, global migration, and international security.

IRC analysts have identified nine key policy areas where US leadership is essential not just to meet the urgent needs of 235 million people, but to also galvanize other nations to improve on their commitments to the world's most vulnerable. Transformational support is needed now as global crises spiral out of control: the COVID-19 pandemic has increased global humanitarian needs by 40% over the last year alone, while violent conflict has increased 75% over the last decade, displacing nearly 80 million people.

Recommended policies for the first year of Biden's presidency include:

  1. Beat COVID abroad and at home by securing $20 billion for the global COVID response, sharing the US' estimated 235 million already-purchased excess COVID-19 vaccines with low-income countries through the COVAX facility.
  2. Reorder US aid priorities by surging 50% of overseas aid to the world's worst conflict zones like Yemen, Somalia and DR Congo.
  3. Coordinate urgent financial help to countries hosting the majority of the world's refugees - like Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Colombia and Bangladesh - targeting assistance to improve the lives of 50 million of the most vulnerable, and leverage resources so that refugees have rights to work and go to school.
  4. Immediately raise the Trump Administration's FY21 refugee admissions level and commit to resettle 125,000 refugees to the United States in FY2022. Leverage the commitment to galvanize global commitments, which have tumbled 50% over the last 4 years. Just 4.5% of the world's 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement were resettled globally last year.
  5. Reverse inhumane asylum policies at the US border that have denied thousands access to asylum, left over 60,000 people at risk at the US Mexico border, put families in detention and separated over 5,000 children from their parents. Scale up alternatives to detention with community sponsorship and legal services.
  6. Increase by three-fold funding to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in fragile and refugee contexts to help achieve gender equality. Hold aid agencies and implementing partners accountable to basic GBV prevention measures.
  7. Reverse the trend of impunity where civilians are targeted and killed in conflict by conditioning US security assistance and arms sales, including to Saudi Arabia, on compliance with International Humanitarian Law. Immediately reverse the Trump Administration's aid suspension in Yemen and last-minute designation of Ansar Allah as a foreign terrorist organization, which bipartisan Senators have condemned for putting 24 million lives at risk.
  8. Lead the international fight against climate change, rejoining Paris Agreement and acknowledging climate-driven displacement estimates of an additional 140 million "climate refugees" by 2050.
  9. Adopt innovations to rapidly expand the reach and scale of aid and services. Simplifying approaches to malnutrition treatment so that children can be treated at home and in their communities can increase malnutrition coverage from 25% to 50% of acutely malnourished children.

David Miliband, the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said:

"President Biden has prioritized immediate actions in America and for Americans.This is understandable - but he has also committed to re-establishing US global leadership. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the world's proliferating humanitarian crises: asIRC's 2021 Watchlist reveals, untended conflict, unmitigated climate change, and now COVID-19 are driving unprecedented humanitarian need and reversing decades of hard-won progress. The US cannot resolve these challenges alone, but it is US leadership that can encourage others to share the burden--and it has been the US' absence that has led a global race to the bottom.

"The IRC believes America can only serve its own interests if it also leads abroad. America isolated will never be America first. COVID-19 shows we live in a connected world. So does instability, insecurity, migration and climate change. From the Middle East to Africa to Central and South Asia and Latin America, untended humanitarian crises have direct consequences for US interests.

"US commitment, ideas and alliances can reverse these worrying trends and galvanize the international community into much-needed humanitarian efforts. Doing so will be among the most visible examples of the values-based foreign policy to which the Biden-Harris Administration has committed itself.These values are not a luxury; they are a must-have to restore American prosperity and security at home.The IRC calls on elected representatives of all parties to reject short-sighted neglect of external problems, and re-establish the US as a global problem-solver, in its own as well as others' interest."

An extended version of these nine recommendations, with detailed policy analysis, is available HERE.

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.