Alexander Betts

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Alexander Betts

Authority on Refugees & Human Migration; Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, Oxford University; Director, Refugee Studies Centre and Refugee Economies; Author, “Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System”

Biography

In media and in public debate, refugees are routinely portrayed as a burden. Alexander Betts explores ways societies might empower refugees rather than pushing them to the margins and provides actionable solutions proven to benefit refugees as well as host countries and businesses.

Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and Fellow of Green-Templeton College at the University of Oxford, Betts is also the director of its Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), the world’s leading refugee research institution. Recently, he was named the director of Refugee Economies, an interdisciplinary non-profit organization that combines economics, anthropology, history, and political science to explore the conditions under which refugees can become self-sufficient and make positive economic contributions to their host states and societies. Betts and his work are garnering international attention: Named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, he is an engaging and powerful speaker. His TED talk, titled “Our Refugee System is Failing,” received rave reviews – for provocative content and performance. His book, “Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System,” (Penguin, April 2017) further explores ways to improve outcomes for refugees and host countries. Betts was also named to the Thinkers50 2017 Radar list of scholars most likely to shape the future.

Oxford’s youngest British professor since World War II, his research is focused on the politics and economics of refugees. He also founded the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) with an initial aim of exploring the role of technology, innovation and the private sector in refugee assistance. The project has undertaken pioneering work on Refugee Economies, developing cutting-edge thinking on how the conceptualize a people-centered approach to humanitarian innovation. The project also led to the creation of the annual Humanitarian Innovation Conference.

An equally talented writer, his book books include “Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime” (Cornell University Press 2009), “Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement” (Cornell University Press 2013), “Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism” (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and “Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development” (Oxford University Press, 2017).

In addition to many academic publications, Betts has written for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and the Guardian, and appeared regularly on the BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN. He has worked for UNHCR and has served as consultant to a range of international organizations, including OCHA, UNICEF, UNDP, and the World Bank.

Alexander Betts is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, By Alexander Betts and Paul Collier

September, 2018

What Europe Could Learn From the Way Africa Treats Refugees

June 26, 2018

Sustainable Migration: Bring Jobs to Migrants and Haven Countries, Then Tackle Asylum

June 26, 2018

Washington Post logo

A Self-Reliance Model for Refugees

June 18, 2018

Embedded in the Local but Open to the World - Treasure the London Marathon

April 22, 2018

Refugee Training Key to Syria’s Reconstruction

April 11, 2018

In an Illiberal World Order, We Need New Ways to Defend Human Rights

January 20, 2018

Human Rights Day: A Look At The Refugee Crisis

December 10, 2017

How Europe's "Headless Hearts" Made Refugee Crisis Worse

September 27, 2017

Universities Told to Aim for 'Inclusive' Internationalisation

September 13, 2017

What Drives Displacement and Refuge

September 4, 2017

The Western Belief that Refugees are a Burden is the Root Cause of Today's Global Crisis

August 28, 2017

The Economist Who Wants to Put Refugees to Work

July 26, 2017

Anchors, Not Walls: New Approaches to Addressing the Global Refugee Crisis

June 27, 2017

Alexander Betts Discusses the Need to Expand the Refugee Response at the Aurora Dialogues

June 16, 2017

Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System

May 9, 2017

You Can Bring Refugees to Jobs, or Jobs to Refugees

April 29, 2017

A New Deal for Refugees

April 27, 2017

Prospect magazine logo

How to Fix the Refugee Crisis

April 11, 2017

Why Denying Refugees the Right to Work is a Catastrophic Error

March 22, 2017

Refugees Can Be Used as a Political Resource to Help Those Left Behind

January 21, 2017

Making Sense of Brexit

December 23, 2016

Jordan's Refugee Experiment

April 28, 2016

Let Refugees Fly to Europe

September 24, 2015

Human Migration Will Be a Defining Issue of this Century

September 20, 2015

The Battle Over The Words Used to Describe Migrants

August 28, 2015

Global Issues Don't Live In Separate Boxes

December 12, 2015

A-Z Name

Betts, Alexander

Biography

In media and in public debate, refugees are routinely portrayed as a burden. Alexander Betts explores ways societies might empower refugees rather than pushing them to the margins and provides actionable solutions proven to benefit refugees as well as host countries and businesses.

Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and Fellow of Green-Templeton College at the University of Oxford, Betts is also the director of its Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), the world’s leading refugee research institution. Recently, he was named the director of Refugee Economies, an interdisciplinary non-profit organization that combines economics, anthropology, history, and political science to explore the conditions under which refugees can become self-sufficient and make positive economic contributions to their host states and societies. Betts and his work are garnering international attention: Named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, he is an engaging and powerful speaker. His TED talk, titled “Our Refugee System is Failing,” received rave reviews – for provocative content and performance. His book, “Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System,” (Penguin, April 2017) further explores ways to improve outcomes for refugees and host countries. Betts was also named to the Thinkers50 2017 Radar list of scholars most likely to shape the future.

Oxford’s youngest British professor since World War II, his research is focused on the politics and economics of refugees. He also founded the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) with an initial aim of exploring the role of technology, innovation and the private sector in refugee assistance. The project has undertaken pioneering work on Refugee Economies, developing cutting-edge thinking on how the conceptualize a people-centered approach to humanitarian innovation. The project also led to the creation of the annual Humanitarian Innovation Conference.

An equally talented writer, his book books include “Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime” (Cornell University Press 2009), “Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement” (Cornell University Press 2013), “Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism” (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and “Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development” (Oxford University Press, 2017).

In addition to many academic publications, Betts has written for Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, and the Guardian, and appeared regularly on the BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN. He has worked for UNHCR and has served as consultant to a range of international organizations, including OCHA, UNICEF, UNDP, and the World Bank.

Alexander Betts is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Fixing Our Refugee System: Capitalizing on the Economic Contributions of Refugees

Whether they are fleeing armed conflict or economic deprivation – or both – people will continue trying to cross borders in search of a decent life, and the global community needs to address this. Challenging the framing of refugees as a burden, Alexander Betts examines the diverse ways in which refugees can instead be understood to be a resource; they have talents, skills and aspirations – contributions to make to their host states and toward helping themselves.

Drawing from groundbreaking research, Betts discusses how the presence of refugees significantly boosts a local economy as a result of additional purchasing power, the creation of employment and the provision of human capital. He explains that when given the right to work, access to capital, and educational opportunities, refugees are likely to have the greatest impact. Pointing to field research and data from Africa and the Middle East, Betts shows how we can reimagine a more sustainable approach to refugee assistance.

Brexit as an Opportunity for Business

Whether we like it or not, Brexit is happening. But instead of simply asking why it happened, or depicting doomsday scenarios of the future, Alexander Betts will ask: what opportunities does Brexit offer for business? How will the resulting policy decisions taken by government on mobility and trade, societal changes, and economic adjustments redefine the opportunity structures for business? What needs to be done in terms of innovation and leadership to grasp those opportunities? This talk will offer an inspiring, yet practical, call to action for how we can collectively re-imagine an inclusive globalization for the post-Brexit era.

Humanitarian Innovation: A People-Centered Approach

Around the world, crisis and conflict lead to incredible human suffering. But our humanitarian system is broken. Traditional models rely upon an outdated United Nations system and an array of NGOs. Alexander Betts argues that many of the sectors that comprise humanitarianism – nutrition, energy, shelter, water and sanitation – have the potential to draw upon products, processes and paradigms commonly used in other sectors, including business and the military. Betts examines the state of the art of humanitarian innovation, while searching for a vision for how it can connect to the skills, talents and aspirations of crisis-affected communities themselves. “The humanitarian system is at a crossroads,” he says. “With growing needs and finite resources, creative solutions are urgently needed.”

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