EU Commissioner Stylianides visits LSE

Stylianides spoke about the urgent need for a coordinated European approach to work together along the main refugee transit route. The conflict in Syria is not improving, and many people remain in conflict zones making it difficult to provide humanitarian assistance.

European Commissioner Christos Stylianides met with faculty from a range of LSE departments on March 15 at an informal discussion event hosted by LSE Health. 

Commissioner Stylianides, the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and the EU's Ebola Coordinator, kicked off discussions with an overview of the EU response to the refugee crisis.

With a budget of more than €1.5bn in 2015, the European Commission is currently focused on providing assistance to Syria, education in emergencies, and supporting member states’ refugee crisis responses. 

LSE faculty addressed the Commissioner’s comments and shared details of their current research in the humanitarian field.

EU Refugee Crisis: the search for political solutions

The Commissioner began by addressing relief efforts inside Syria.  Stylianides spoke about the urgent need for a coordinated European approach to work together along the main refugee transit route.

The conflict in Syria is not improving, and many people remain in conflict zones making it difficult to provide humanitarian assistance. Despite the challenging environment, the EU has allocated more than €5 billion in humanitarian and development assistance to support relief efforts.

Commissioner Stylianides stressed that for this aid to be effectively utilised, historical differences must be overcome and “political solutions” found to address the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Education in Emergencies

The Commissioner also spoke about the importance of establishing schools in refugee camps.

There are a significant number of children that need access to education, almost 80% of refugee children in the Near East are out of school. Education is key to deter extremist recruitment, forced marriage, and community strengthening.

Commissioner Stylianides is determined to prioritise education in emergencies, dedicating 4% of the EU humanitarian budget to this cause.  

New Instrument for Emergency Assistance Within the EU

The Commissioner concluded by discussing a new EU proposal to provide humanitarian aid to member states.

Until the establishment of the new instrument, aid could only be used in developing countries. With the increasing number of people migrating to Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, and Greece, resources are strained.

The proposal grants humanitarian funds to assist those countries who are hosting large numbers of refugees. 

LSE Humanitarian Research

Following the Commissioner’s comments, several LSE faculty members shared their current work in the humanitarian field. 

Research presented ranged from a call to align health and humanitarian frameworks to the role of education in humanitarian crises.

Discussion was wide-ranging but a snapshot of presentations given includes:

Health and Humanitarianism

LSE Health’s Clare Wenham emphasised the need for humanitarian and health agencies to align their priorities and principles of operation. Humanitarian agencies include health priorities, but many health initiatives do not include humanitarian principles.

Dr Wenham pointed to research on the Ebola response showing the fragmentation between health and humanitarianism.

She concluded by recommending the full integration of humanitarian practices into disease outbreak responses for comprehensive, effective, and timely emergency health responses.

Communication Strategies & Digital Infrastructure in Humanitarian Crises

Lillie Chouliaraki from LSE’s Department of Media and Communications, discussed media and communication in the current refugee crisis.

Chouliaraki’s work noted the missed opportunities to use digital platforms and social media to foster communication between refugees and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and for social media to provide a “human face” for the crisis.

Chouliaraki argued that the recent media approach does not adequately address the causes of the refugee crisis. A better communication strategy using digital platforms could improve refugee relief services, NGO coordination, and educate the general public about root causes.

Regeneration in Lebanon

Romola Sanyal, Assistant Professor of Urban Geography at the LSE presented research tracking the implementation of urban projects in Lebanon.

Lebanon, a country with a total population of 4.8 million hosts around 1.4 million Syrian refugees. Sanyal argued that the “no camp” policy has led to tension between the hosts and refugees.

Lack of expertise in urban planning and poor coordination between the nearly 4000 NGOs in the country, has resulted in uneven urban development with knock on effects.

Barriers to Refugee Access to the NHS

Philipa Mladovsky from LSE’s Department of International Development outlined the humanitarian implications of research into private health care in India.

She also spoke about the need to remove financial barriers for refugees to access NHS care in the UK.

Countries such as the UK and Sweden have charged refugees excessive out-of-pocket fees to access secondary care. Not only do financial barriers exist, but social exclusion from the health system is also occurring throughout Europe. 

Future collaboration

The wide ranging discussion showcased the breadth of LSE expertise and highlighted areas for further research and collaboration with the Commission.

The Commissioner described the event on twitter  as an opportunity to share "valuable info and views on research priorities" and concluded the event by looking forward to future cooperation between the EU and the LSE.


Event summary by Katie McClain, Health Policy, Planning, and Financing MSc Candidate at the LSE

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