UN refugee summit an 'abject failure'

Syrian children in a refugee camp in Lebanon (Getty)
Syrian children in a refugee camp in Lebanon (Getty)

Aid agencies are scoffing at the United Nations' claim it has made "bold commitments" to tackle the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

The UN says its New York Declaration, made at the end of the first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants this week, "represents a breakthrough in our collective efforts" to deal with the world's 65 million refugees.

But World Vision NZ chief executive Chris Clarke says it's an "abject failure" that doesn't compel anyone to do anything.

"A consequence of this decision today will see children dying," he told Paul Henry on Tuesday, soon after the declaration was issued.

"That is the sharp reality of the failure of the United Nations to actually step up and turn their words into action."

Mr Clarke says he's "appalled" UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a "landmark" declaration.

"How do you celebrate a failure? You look at a child sitting in a refugee camp this morning, I doubt they woke up this morning [thinking], 'Great! The UN's going to save me today.' [...] The New York Declaration that we're seeing is high on words but totally absent on action."

Amnesty NZ said the New York summit, attended by UNDP head and former Prime Minister Helen Clark, was "sabotaged by states acting in self-interest, leaving millions of refugees in dire situations".

The UN will regroup in 2018 to come up with something concrete to help refugees.

About 65 million people are classified by the UN Human Rights Commission as displaced from their homes. Seven million alone are a result of the Syrian war.

The ceasefire there has been a failure too, with no aid getting into war-torn Aleppo and aid trucks getting bombed.

"Our challenge is we have to look after our staff as well, as obviously the communities we're working with," says Mr Clarke.

"When they're constantly being bombed, that's a near impossible task."

He doubts Prime Minister John Key, due to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council on the Syrian crisis, will have any luck getting the many sides to put down their weapons.

"It's going to take more than John Key to resolve Syria... all the parties, and there are many parties, still believe they can win the war. Until they get to a point where they realise it's in their best interests to actually sue for peace, this will continue."

A Paul Henry poll Tuesday morning found only 21 percent of viewers are in favour of New Zealand doing more to help the world's refugees.

"If that was their child who no longer had a home, who could no longer go to school, who could no longer see their grandparents, who could no longer have hope... if that was their child, I think they'd feel very differently," says Mr Clarke.

He wants New Zealand and other relatively wealthy countries to follow the likes of Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey, some of which are hosting millions of refugees with comparatively less money.

"Until the world stands up and says let's have a fair distribution of these refugees... we don't have much hope."