At a time of ever-increasing state fragility, conflict and violence around the world, there is an unprecedented number of displaced people and refugees. The UNHCR is at the forefront of efforts to support them, but the challenge is enormous and we must mobilize all sectors of society in countries both near and far from conflicts to help this vulnerable population meet their own needs. In recent years, the UNHCR has recognized the importance of ensuring access to higher education for refugees, and it has supported the founding of the Tertiary Refugee Student Network (TRSN) by refugee students committed to innovative approaches to this challenge. This commitment this has brought both the UNHCR and the TRSN into conversation with universities that share similar concerns. One of these is Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, home to the internationally-recognized, student-run and student-funded International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) scholarship program.
Together these parties recognize that student leadership in partnership with universities and colleges will be critical to sustained humanitarian action if there are to be successful solutions to growing humanitarian crises today. Students bring a unique combination of perspective, knowledge and commitment that can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and open up the very real possibility of effective social action. The institutions of higher education where they study have resources and experience that are equally valuable, not least the opportunity to cultivate student skills and knowledge through targeted experiential learning. However, to succeed, both students and institutions must work together in trusting, mutually-respectful partnerships grounded in the fundamental mission of higher education to raise up future generations of capable leaders informed by a knowledgeable and compassionate approach to the world around them.