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Number of displaced persons hits historical high

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees has announced that the number of internally displaced has reached the highest level ever, thanks to the intensifying of several recent conflicts:

The number of people internally displaced within their own countries has reached a historical high of more than 28 million, the UN's refugee agency said today, as conflicts in Pakistan's Swat valley and Sri Lanka compound a growing global problem.

At the end of last year the total number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution around the world stood at 42 million, including 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million people uprooted within their own countries, according to UNHCR's annual Global Trends report, which was released this afternoon.

But since the end of last year there has been an exodus of more than 2 million from the Swat valley, which has become a battleground between the Taliban and the Pakistani army.

More than 300,000 refugees are being held in internment camps in Sri Lanka, victims of the conflict between government soldiers and the Tamil Tigers, and 130,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.

The full report can be found on UNHCR's website. Not surprisingly, Iraq (2.6 million) and Sudan (over 2 million) had some of the largest internally displaced populations, but the largest population is in fact still Colombia, due to the decades-long war between the government and the FARC. Similarly tragic is the number of refugees from the most recent major conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan account for "almost half of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide," with Afghan refugees in an astonishing 69 countries worldwide.

FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images

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The IMF is the new UN

Bill Easterly's take on the new responsibilities delegated to the International Monetary Fund at this week's G8 Finance Ministers conference:

Of course, no G8 country would really yield sovereignty on policy to the IMF, or even allow it to determine its bilateral foreign aid policies. What seems to be going on is the same kind of shadow play the Great Powers have long played with the UN: (1) a terrible international problem appears, (2) the Great Powers do not want to commit any real capital to reach a solution, or they cannot agree on a solution, or they simply don’t know the solution, (3) but the Great Powers must appear to act anyway, (4) so they put the UN in charge of the unsolvable problem, and then (5) blame the UN when the problem remains unsolved.

This five-act shadow play has worked out so well for the Great Powers in places like Somalia, the Congo, and Darfur that the G8 appears to have decided to try the same thing with the global financial crisis. Here, they don’t want to commit real capital to international coordination or cushioning the blow to poor countries, they can’t agree what to do anyhow, and they really don’t know the solution in the first place. So let’s put the IMF in charge! And then blame the IMF when things continue to go badly!