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Make refugees part of benchmarks for Africa's development, say panelists

News Stories, 4 October 2002

© UNHCR/L.Taylor
Self-reliance activities at Tanzania's Kasulu camp show that refugees have much to contribute to Africa's development.

GENEVA, October 4 (UNHCR) Delegates at an annual UNHCR meeting have called for the inclusion of humanitarian issues including refugees and returnees in a list of benchmarks for evaluating reforms and progress made by countries collaborating with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Meeting at a plenary session of UNHCR's Executive Committee in Geneva on Wednesday, the speakers also urged the UN refugee agency to "energetically influence" the proposed NEPAD peer review mechanism being set up, as a way of moving forward the agenda for refugees and returnees within the NEPAD framework.

The peer review mechanism, although not yet approved by NEPAD member countries, is expected to provide a structure through which African leaders themselves will evaluate reforms and progress made by their peers, i.e. heads of states, to improve the political and socio-economic situation in their countries. When agreed, leaders will be rated against a defined set of yardsticks and measurable indicators.

"UNHCR should energetically influence the peer review mechanism to ensure that refugees are included as a measurable indicator within the set of benchmarks," said panelist Haiko Alfeld of the World Economic Forum. "There should be transparent standards of protection set for inclusion in the peer review."

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers backed the delegates' call, saying it was a positive proposal that could push forward the search for durable solutions to the refugee problem. At the same time, he noted the need for added effort in addressing the root causes of refugee problems. The culture of impunity and greed continued to be fundamental problems in Africa that needed to be resolved, he added.

"Greed is a vice, not just in Africa, although in Africa it is too easy for people to get away with it. It is fuelled by the outside world and has its consequences. The culture of impunity is also still there. People can get away with exploiting others. These are some of the root causes of the refugee problem," said Lubbers.

The High Commissioner told governments that although refugees and returnees had not been included explicitly in the original NEPAD document, UNHCR was satisfied that refugee issues could be tackled under the peace and security component of the plan of action, which he described as "the essence of NEPAD".

However, he cautioned that unless the problem of population displacement was addressed, the goal of peace and security a precondition to sustainable development in Africa would not be achieved.

Out of the 20 million people of concern to UNHCR around the world, six million are to be found in Africa. Three million of them are refugees, while the rest are internally displaced persons and returnees.

Renewing his call to governments to include refugees in their national development plans, Lubbers warned, "If you do not include them, then you are on the wrong track," and lauded the Zambian government for an initiative started in western Zambia in 2001 to bridge the gap between relief and development.

Under the "Zambia Initiative", projects in the field of agriculture, health, education and physical infrastructure have been started to benefit both refugees and local populations, and to diffuse tensions between the two communities.

"Zambia deserves to be supported," said Lubbers, calling on donor countries to give more support to countries that are taking measures to integrate refugees into their development programmes.

Responding to calls for more support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, panelist Ian Ferguson, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said, "Where results are demonstrated, more resources will follow."

A number of African governments urged the UN refugee agency to make more effort to translate NEPAD's commitment to refugees, under the peace and security objective of the plan of action, into concrete action on the ground. They also recommended the formation of a working group to outline the next course of action.

Speaking for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), panel member Lalla Ben Barka urged UNHCR to resist the "temptation to go it alone" and called for more co-ordination with other UN bodies.

There were also calls for more patience with the NEPAD process, which was described as "a work in progress".





We help refugees, refugee returnees and internally displaced people tap their potential and build a platform for a better future.

Refugee Women

Women and girls make up about 50 percent of the world's refugee population, and they are clearly the most vulnerable. At the same time, it is the women who carry out the crucial tasks in refugee camps – caring for their children, participating in self-development projects, and keeping their uprooted families together.

To honour them and to draw attention to their plight, the High Commissioner for Refugees decided to dedicate World Refugee Day on June 20, 2002, to women refugees.

The photographs in this gallery show some of the many roles uprooted women play around the world. They vividly portray a wide range of emotions, from the determination of Macedonian mothers taking their children home from Kosovo and the hope of Sierra Leonean girls in a Guinean camp, to the tears of joy from two reunited sisters. Most importantly, they bring to life the tremendous human dignity and courage of women refugees even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Refugee Women

Silent Success

Despite being chased from their homes in the Central African Republic and losing their livelihoods, Mbororo refugees have survived by embracing a new way of life in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Mbororo, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders from Central African Republic, started fleeing their villages in waves in 2005, citing insecurity as well as relentless targeting by rebel groups and bandits who steal their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom.

They arrived in the East and Adamaoua provinces of Cameroon with nothing. Though impoverished, the host community welcomed the new arrivals and shared their scant resources. Despite this generosity, many refugees died of starvation or untreated illness.

Help arrived in 2007, when UNHCR and partner agencies began registering refugees, distributing food, digging and rehabilitating wells as well as building and supplying medical clinics and schools, which benefit refugees and the local community and promote harmony between them. The Mbororo were eager to learn a new trade and set up farming cooperatives. Though success didn't come immediately, many now make a living from their crops.

Mbororo refugees continue to arrive in Central African Republic - an average of 50 per month. The long-term goal is to increase refugees' self-reliance and reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.

Silent Success

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

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