How world should respond to Syria crisis

Story highlights

  • Frida Ghitis says world leaders have failed to manage the crisis in Syria
  • The leaders should consider safe zones for refugees in the country, she says

Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. Follow her @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)The calamity that has befallen the people of Syria has put the entire world to shame. The image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying facedown on a beach, dead, after his family sought to escape the horrors of their country's civil war, has touched the world. But compassion without action is pointless.

Thousands of refugees are battling European governments. Today, it's Hungary. Last month, it was Macedonia. Desperate people are paying thousands of dollars to traffickers to take them to safety; scores have died of asphyxia after being locked in trucks that failed to reach their destination; thousands have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
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We are living in the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and yet the truth is that world leaders have failed to manage the crisis. They will, of course, answer to history. But in the meantime, the situation will only become worse without drastic action: More will die, more refugees will arrive unwanted, more countries will become destabilized and, if this goes on much longer, we will have a generation of Syrians who have grown up in the kind of conditions that perpetuate conflict.
    It is too late to prevent the current crisis, but there is plenty we can try to do moving forward to try to ease it.
    What exactly?
    For a start, world leaders should convene a top-level emergency gathering to focus on the key aspects of this crisis. The conference should be called by a group of countries, including Germany with strong backing from the United States, and should include the European Union, the United Nations and other world powers, Syria's neighbors, and also Russia and China. The objective should be threefold: to stop the killing, to help the refugees and to bring an end to the war.
    Arab nations must play a major role in addressing the Syrian crisis. We are all responsible. But the people of Syria are their neighbors, their brethren. The conflict is in their midst, its impact close to home. To be sure, the neighborhood has not completely failed Syrian refugees. The overwhelming majority of those who have fled Syria -- millions of them -- are now living in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and Arab states have helped finance those costs. But more is needed.
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