Marcelo Suárez-Orozco Shares Findings from UCLA-PAS Workshops

Wasserman Dean takes part in discussions at the Vatican on humanitarian response to global refugee crisis.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, traveled to the Vatican in early November to share findings from the first ever UCLA-Pontifical Academies research project on mass migration and the refugee crisis. The meeting, “Health of the People and Planet, Our Responsibility,” gathered leaders from across the globe, including Noble Laurates, the Governor of California, the Director, Public Health and the Environment Department, World Health Organization, and many others to discuss the crisis of unchecked climate change and its impacts on health, environmental sustainability, and the forced displacement of millions of human beings.

The Workshop focused on the crisis of unchecked climate change, pollution, and their devastating impacts on health, the environment, and above all, the world’s poorest.  As stated in the Workshop’s final declaration, “With unchecked climate change and air pollution, the very fabric of life on Earth, including that of humans, is at grave risk.” As the planet heats up, it is not only causing environmental damage, but adding to the crisis in mass migration across the world over. More than 65 million people across the globe have been forcefully displaced in catastrophic migrations driven by unchecked climate change, war and terror, and uncontrolled violence in multiple continents. And for the first time in history, over half of all refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate are minors. According to UN figures, in 2016 there were twenty-eight million children forcefully displaced. Another twenty million children were international migrants. The massive displacement of children and youth represents a new geography of forced migration. The unprecedented number of refugee children has significant implications for education, health, and wellbeing and pose a significant challenge to the countries and systems that must serve them. Their plight is the existential crisis of our times.

“Mass migration is increasingly defined by unchecked climate change, cataclysmic environmental disruptions, the slow-motion disintegration of failing states with feeble institutions, and war and terror,” says Suárez-Orozco. “Symbiotically, these forces are the drivers of what I call the Catastrophic Migrations of the twenty-first century.  Concurrently, we are witnessing a rapid transformation of the refugee population, with tens of millions of children forcefully displaced from their homes. The majority of these children will grow into adulthood in displacement, creating the world’s largest crisis of confinement in history as nine in ten refugees seeking shelter will never make it to a high or middle-income country.  Refugee camps are greatly challenging our humanitarian response.  We need to address the education, healthcare, and well-being of children, we are endeavoring to offer solutions but we also need to seek to slow the warming of the planet and stop its wanton destruction.”

The UCLA-Pontifical Academies project on Humanitarianism and Migration brings together leaders and experts in migration and refugee studies from across the globe to examine the global refugee crisis and the need for an effective humanitarian response. Dean Suárez-Orozco was at the conference to discuss scope of this crisis and its causes and implications, as well as proposing strategies for addressing the challenge.

A statement from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting,” Health of the People and Planet, Our Responsibility,” is available at


Above: Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco with California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Vatican earlier this month. Courtesy of Marcelo Suárez-Orozco