UNHCR Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia, other humanitarian organizations, development actors, donor agencies, and the private sector, has been working on a range of initiatives to address the socio-economic needs of refugees and host communities. In February 2017, Ethiopia became one of the first countries to apply the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

The decision by the Ethiopia Government to participate in the CRRF was quickly supported by a joint World Bank-UNHCR mission to consider support to refugee and host communities under the IDA-18 refugee sub-window.  The CRRF roadmap, which represents key objectives of the CRRF in Ethiopia, is underway and will realize the pledges made by the Government at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York.

Government pledges towards a more comprehensive response

At the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, which Ethiopia co-hosted on 20 September 2016 in New York, a day after the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, Ethiopia made the following nine pledges for the benefit of refugees:

  1. To expand the “out-of-camp” policy to benefit 10% of the current total refugee population;
  2. To provide work permits to refugees and those with permanent residence ID;
  3. To provide work permits to refugees in the areas permitted for foreign workers;
  4. To increase enrolment of refugee children in pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary education, without discrimination and within available resources;
  5. To make 10,000 hectares of irrigable land available and to enable 20,000 refugees and host community households (100,000 persons) to grow their own crops;
  6. To allow local integration for refugees who have lived in Ethiopia for 20 years or more.
  7. To work with international partners to build industrial parks which will employ up to 100,000 individuals, with a portion of the jobs reserved for refugees.
  8. To expand and enhance basic and essential social services for refugees.
  9. To provide other benefits, such as issuance of birth certificates to refugee children born in Ethiopia, and the possibility of opening bank accounts and obtain driving licenses.

Strategic roll-out of the CRRF

The CRRF can be considered a vehicle to realize the implementation of the Government’s nine pledges. In line with its vision to provide sustainable responses that go beyond care and maintenance of refugees and rather to promote their self-reliance, the CRRF combines wider support to host communities. A set of new and innovative approaches is required to increase the quality of protection and expand protection solutions for refugees in the country. This is done through a four-pronged approach: (1) implementing the pledges; (2) strengthening legal and policy components; (3) supporting host populations (4) strengthening coordination mechanisms.

The Government has prepared a roadmap detailing the implementation of each pledge, outlining key opportunities and partnerships that must be put in place, and is incorporating some of the pledges into a revised Refugee Proclamation expected to come into force before the end of 2017. Additional legislative reforms to Proclamation 760/2012 permitting civil documentation for refugees were passed in August 2017, and a further Directive providing practical details on the issuance of civil documentation is was finalised in October 2017 and the first civil documents were issued to refugees on 27 October 2017 This historic and ground-breaking development enables refugees to register their vital life events, including birth, death, marriage and divorce, directly with national authorities. 

The Government is also finalising a CRRF governance structure in collaboration with UNHCR, which includes line ministries, federal agencies, development actors, NGOs and donors based in Ethiopia. The CRRF Steering Committee will drive the practical implementation of the pledges. The Co-ordination Unit will also include multiple stakeholders to support the Steering Committee by undertaking research, advocacy, capacity building, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.

Ethiopia is currently chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which brings together eight countries in the Central and Horn regions of Africa in support of peace, prosperity and regional integration. At the Special Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which was convened in Nairobi on 25 March 2017, IGAD member States made a commitment to pursue a comprehensive regional approach to deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees.  In September 2017 representatives from IGAD Member States met in Addis Ababa to validate the roadmap and results framework of the Nairobi Plan of Action, both of which are the backbone of the CRRF for the Somali situation.

Development actors such as UNDP and the World Bank have joined the core group to support the implementation of programmes aimed at stabilizing Somalia and enhancing self-reliance and access to services and assistance for Somali refugees and host communities across the East and Horn of Africa. National action plans are being devised for the Somali refugee situation and the first progress reports will be presented in November 2017 at the Regional Inter-ministerial Committee meeting.

Furthermore, UNHCR Ethiopia has been identified as a pilot operation to test the “multi-year multi-partner” planning process.  By bringing together the full range of national and international partners and stakeholders to plan together with a longer-term vision, the comparative advantages of all actors will be leveraged to tackle and resolve protection and solutions challenges in a sustainable manner. This is expected to have a positive bearing on the capacity to implement the Government’s pledges, apply the CRRF and ensure the long-term impact of ongoing activities.


Within the context of the CRRF, UNHCR seeks to foster the expansion of partnerships with government actors, including leaders of regions and local districts, traditional and non-traditional donors, and international and national NGOs. This multi-stakeholder approach guarantees a more effective response to the development needs and aspiration of refugees and host communities alike.

Through collaboration with private sector organisations and foundations, efforts are underway to expand opportunities in the areas of livelihoods, education, shelter, nutrition, energy and rehabilitation of the environment. Special attention will go to enhancing relations between humanitarian and development actors with a view to ensuring the sustainability of current interventions and benefitting both refugees and host communities.

In response to local conflict in and around refugee communities in Gambella, the Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, UNDP, UN Women and other partners are initiating a project to improve community safety and security, protection and access to justice in four districts and seven camps, in particular building capacities of local institutions to strengthen national justice and victim support services to both the local Ethiopian population as well as refugees.

Over the longer term such development oriented approach is expected to lead to more inclusive and cohesive local institutions and societies and contribute to increased peace, refugee solutions, resilience and development in the target districts.

Ethiopia will benefit from a US$100 million fund from the World Bank under the DRDIP (Development Response Displacement Impact Programme) to improve access to basic social services, expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for host communities. Ethiopia is also under consideration for the Bank’s IDA-18 regional sub-window for refugees and host communities.

UNHCR’s Collaboration with the World Bank, European Investment Bank and the Ethiopian Investment Commission will continue, particularly in light of the Jobs Compact and the creation of industrial parks designed to benefit both the host community and refugees, in line with the Government’s pledges.

Current challenges

A number of growing challenges will impede the application of the CRRF if not addressed in an appropriate manner. This includes continuous drought in many regions which have caused tensions that led to the State of Emergency concluding in August 2017, coupled with further cross-border movements in the country since the start of 2017.

The Government’s ability to realize its aspirations to further its duty of care to refugees, relative to its existing resource constraints, will inevitably be based on the scale-up of equitable responsibility-sharing between Member States. Within a climate of decreasing humanitarian and development financing, which has led to critical shortfalls in food assistance, limited opportunities for third-country resettlement, and limited support to youth and a growing population of unaccompanied and separated children, bold financial commitments for essential humanitarian services and a sustainable solutions-based response will be needed to harness the CRRF’s transformational agenda.

Operational and funding needs to deliver on a comprehensive refugee response

The key funding and operational gaps to be filled include the following:

  1. Greater support is needed to foster broad-based partnerships to deliver on the CRRF; specifically, support to facilitate the work of the governance structure led by the Government. Greater coordination will harmonise efforts of national and regional government entities, civil society and private sector actors on the ground.
  2. Resettlement: The projected resettlement needs for 2017 for refugees in Ethiopia are 50,800 persons. In 2018, the projected resettlement needs stand at 65,750 refugees.
  3. Complementary pathways: Third-country governments – in cooperation and with the support of other stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and diaspora organizations – are encouraged to establish and expand complementary pathways for refugees in Ethiopia. These pathways may include expanded family reunification and family-based mobility; labour mobility schemes; scholarships and education programmes; and regional mobility schemes. (Note: implementation of such pathways necessitates certain facilitative administrative measures, as well as protection safeguards. UNHCR may support States with technical advice in these areas). More specifically with regard to unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) from Eritrea with family members outside: recognizing that 39% of the Eritrean refugee population are children, of whom 25% are UASC, and approximately 80% of Eritrean UASC have relatives outside Eritrea (35% in Europe; 35% in Ethiopia; 15% in Israel; 15% other), we request that key member States to facilitate expanded family reunification for this population. UNHCR can provide more information on the needs relating to complementary pathways.
  4. Greater involvement of line ministries is needed to help foster greater complementarity of efforts across the country between regional government authorities and ARRA in Addis Ababa. In the same vein, greater support is needed to local authorities and host populations.
  5. Education: Support to the Government on its pledge to increase enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education for refugees.
  6. Funding: UNHCR’s Operating Plan for the refugee response in 2017 is US$ 307.5 million. This plan is currently funded at 20%.