Davos WEF
Davos WEF

Cate Blanchett calls on world to show more compassion to refugees

Key Points
  • Blanchett, a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, was honored at the 2018 Crystal Awards in Davos for her leadership in raising awareness about the refugee crisis.
  • The actress called upon leaders to reengage with refugees and hear their stories.
Cate Blanchett
Harold Cunningham | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Actress and campaigner Cate Blanchett called on the world to adopt a more compassionate approach to refugees on Tuesday.

The UNHCR goodwill ambassador explained to an audience at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, that not only do refugees need support in the form of nutrition, healthcare and shelter, they also need to be heard, to have their stories put in a positive light.

In 2016, a Pew Research Center report on the refugee crisis in Europe found that in eight out of 10 European nations surveyed, over 50 percent saw incoming refugees as increasing "the likelihood of terrorism" in their country.

According to UNHCR's Global Trends 2016 report, developing regions hosted 84 percent of the world's refugees under UNHCR's mandate, with some of the poorest nations offering asylum to 28 percent of the global total, or 4.9 million refugees.

"There has to be a burden share, no one country can house these people. And you've got to remember that these are not terrorists, these are innocent people," Blanchett said during a session titled "An Insight, An Idea With Cate Blanchett."

"Everyone I've met, they all want to return home and they want to be useful to their host countries."

Australian actress Cate Blanchett (R) receives a Crystal Award from the hands of Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship Chairperson and Co-Founder Hilde Schwab during a ceremony ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 annual meeting, on January 22, 2018 in Davos, eastern Switzerland

On Monday, Blanchett was honored at the Crystal Awards in Davos for her leadership in raising awareness about the refugee crisis. On accepting her award, she called upon leaders to re-engage with refugees, rather than turn them away.

"Nowhere is the fractured world more humanly embodied than in the refugee — a person uprooted from all that they hold dear, forced to flee, often resented and reviled in the country where they settle," Blanchett said. "This is the narrative that we truly need to disrupt."

On Tuesday, Blanchett accentuated this point further, stating that the world was at "a fork in the road," and what was "incredibly upsetting" was the amount of "misinformation about refugees."

"We try and teach our children to be compassionate, to be tolerant, to accept diversity, to share — but yet all of the structures that are around them are not doing the same thing," she said. "So, it's quite a schizophrenic world that they are living in and I personally want to go down the compassionate path."

She added that there was "far more opportunity" when countries diversified their workforce and populations.

On her work as a goodwill ambassador, Blanchett admitted she was not an expert, but rather more of a witness. She said that having the privilege to go out into the field enabled her meet refugees and raise awareness.

"To bring those stories back, to bring the human face back to those enormous numbers (of refugees). I think those numbers are overwhelming and can make us all disconnect," she said, highlighting UNHCR statistics that stated that 22.5 million of the 65.6 million people forcibly displaced by the end of 2016 were refugees.

"But when you reengage with a single story, you don't know what's going to make a point of connection. So I think that's part of my role and also advocacy and helping to fundraise for the organizations."

In terms of advice and approaching the subject, Blanchett told attendees that it was important to listen and have open-minded conversations.

"You've got to countenance opinions that are not necessarily your own. You do have to see things from all perspectives — it's the only way to find sustainable solutions," she said.

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