UNHCR lauds IGAD strides towards the implementation of the ‘Nairobi Declaration’

BUSINESS

The UNHCR has congratulated IGAD on the progress it has made so far towards the implementation of the IGAD Declaration for Somali Refugees and the Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia – or as it has come to be known, the ‘Nairobi Declaration’.

The Declaration and Plan of Action are already driving important changes in the lives of refugees and the communities hosting them. IGAD member states have already taken a number of steps in this regard, including through important policy changes in favour of refugee inclusion and self-reliance.

For example, Djibouti and Ethiopia have formulated new policies and passed legislation giving more rights to refugees and facilitating access to education, the labour market and the issuance of civil documentation.

In Somalia, for the first time, a National Forum on Durable Solutions for Refugee Returnees and Internally Displaced People was convened in August 2017. The Forum brought together central and regional government officials and decision makers and resulted in a draft National Policy to support the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration.

Furthermore, Somalia has elaborated a comprehensive National Action Plan for returnees – an important model for the role countries of origin should play in addressing a protracted refugee situation.

Speaking in Nairobi at the IGAD Inter-Ministerial stocktaking meeting on Progress towards the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Affey, Special Envoy for the Somali Refugee Situation on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that forced displacement is one of the most pressing and compelling challenges that the world is facing today adding that 66 million people are currently uprooted by conflict, violence and persecution worldwide, including some 26 million refugees and asylum-seekers – a number unmatched since the immediate aftermath of the Cold War in the 1990s.

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He added that Another 40 million people are internally displaced. The scale and pace of today’s forced displacement crises, and the extensive human suffering that they bring, are directly linked to weaknesses in the ability to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflicts, and failures in international cooperation.

‘Of the 18 million refugees falling under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide, one third are in Africa. Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda together host more than 3 million refugees. Their generosity, and that of other host countries in keeping their borders open to those fleeing war and persecution, and offering them protection and support, often for years on end, is a global example, to be deeply commended,’

he said.

He however warned that without adequate support and the promise of solutions, the impact of protracted exile on refugees, and host communities is stark. For all too many, life as a refugee has for decades been one of desperation and basic survival, dependent on aid and unable to contribute to rebuilding their own lives or to participate in the social and economic life of the communities around them.

Over the last two days UNHCR has been facilitating, together with Member States, the most recent round of consultations in Geneva on the proposal on the forthcoming Global Compact for Refugees. The Compact, based on existing refugee law standards, and experience gained through operational engagement in comprehensive responses, will seek to address long-standing gaps in the international response to refugee crises.

It will seek to underpin the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework with series of concrete measures and mechanisms for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing among member states – as well as to clarify and develop the roles of a much broader range of entities – including local authorities, international organizations within and beyond the United Nations system; development actors and international financial institutions; regional organizations; civil society, including faith-based organizations; academics and other experts; the private sector; media; and refugees themselves.

‘Indeed, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commitment “to leave no one behind” is at the centre of the Global Compact for Refugees and it also speaks with resonance to the African Union’s Agenda 2063,’

he said.

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The Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action are clear and ground-breaking – a powerful response to the duration and intensity of the suffering of the Somali people and a call to action by states in the region and beyond. They mark a new energy and determination to help Somali refugees and internally displaced people rebuild their lives, and restore a vision of a future.

The challenge ahead is to ensure that international co-operation for comprehensive refugee responses materializes. There are already good examples of increased involvement and contributions from development actors. Development partners have scaled up their investments in refugee-hosting communities as part of comprehensive responses, and these efforts are to be commended. I have also called for additional resettlement opportunities, as a tool of international protection and international responsibility sharing – including for an additional 40,000 places for refugees located in 15 priority countries along the Central Mediterranean route, such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. This request received a good response, as resettlement countries continue to make pledges, but more needs to be done in this regard,’

he added.

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