Statement to the Conference on Education for Refugees in the IGAD Region, Ministerial Meeting in Djibouti

C’est un très grand plaisir d’être aujourd’hui à Djibouti pour la première fois de ma vie. Je suis arrivé  depuis deux heures et j’ai déjà été décoré. Cette décoration, je l’accepte avec beaucoup d’humilité car je sais ce que votre pays, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, a fait non seulement pour les réfugiés mais aussi pour la paix et la stabilité de cette région. J’accepte cette décoration au nom de mes collègues qui ont œuvré dans cette région et dans ce pays et également au nom des réfugiés qui ont bénéficié de votre hospitalité, donc merci. Permettez-moi, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, de dire quelques mots en anglais pour le reste des participants.

Thank you very much, IGAD member states and the Executive Secretary, for these kind words. He, and others, have recalled that more than 3 million refugees live in the member states of IGAD, and unfortunately a very large number of internally displaced people as well. For the refugees, this is one sixth of the total population of refugees in the world. So forced displacement is a very big challenge in this region; but I think it is precisely because you are facing this challenge that one has to recognize that your work - especially after the Summit for Refugees and Migrants last year in New York and after the publication of the New York Declaration - the work that you have done to follow up the commitments made at that summit is truly pioneering.

Unfortunately, for health reasons, I could not attend the Nairobi Summit, but one of my deputies represented me. That summit was a milestone between the New York Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the establishment next year, hopefully, of a global compact on refugees and a global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.

These two global compacts will become an important frame of reference on how we manage this very important phenomenon of human mobility, forced displacement and migration. So what you are doing, especially in the area of forced displacement, which is UNHCR’s main focus, is very important for the region, but also as an example to other states and other regions.

I was in Geneva in the last few days, where I chaired what we call the Protection Dialogue. We organize it every year with states, civil society, academia, private sector, and this year 500 participants came. The theme this year was the global compact on refugees, and the IGAD region was mentioned over and over again.

This is truly important, because the Nairobi Declaration, together with the work you have done afterwards on various areas - including education and coordinating this very important conference - focuses on protection of refugees, support of host communities, inclusion of refugees, national development, services, local economy, and most importantly, on solutions. The Nairobi Declaration was focused on Somali refugees, and was therefore linked to national development plans in countries hosting Somali refugees. It was also linked to plans to reconstruct Somalia - because eventually, the solution is voluntary repatriation. That is why this conference is so important, because education is not only a tool to give to refugees what is their right (just as for any other person); it is not just an instrument of dignity and identity - but it is also a very important investment to the future. We hope that Somali refugees, South Sudanese refugees, and other refugees in this region will eventually be able to go back home; and if they are educated, they will bring with them the know-how and the knowledge to rebuild their countries.

Je voudrais aussi, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, féliciter la République de Djibouti. Tout a été déjà dit, je ne vais pas le répéter mais le dispositif législatif que vous avez mis en place pour l’accueil, la protection et l’insertion des réfugiés dans l’éducation et dans la santé, l’accès à l’économie et à l’emploi et maintenant l’annonce que vient de faire le Ministre de l’Intérieur sur une politique qui évite les camps et la marginalisation des réfugiés dans les camps. On a vu trop de ça dans tous les pays du monde et maintenant c’est plutôt une approche de sites, de villages. Tout cela est extraordinaire et je pense que c’est d’autant plus extraordinaire que ça a été fait et ça continue d’être fait dans un pays qui n’est pas un grand pays et qui a des ressources limitées mais qui donne l’exemple à d’autres pays beaucoup plus grands et beaucoup plus riches, qui ferment leurs portes aux réfugiés.

Let me just finish by reminding everybody that as the Executive Secretary said, and the Minister of Education said, this is a troubled region. If a small country like Djibouti receives refugees from four different countries, this tells the story. It is very important that you continue to do what you are doing to address the consequences of this instability. Refugees and displaced people are the consequences of war, so it is very important that you do your best, and you continue to do your best, in extending protection, in supporting the communities that are hosting them, and in building their resilience until they can go back home when the situation is resolved.

Here, Mr. Executive Secretary, I address also IGAD as a political institution. You have also an important responsibility to help resolve this conflict. Here, I am talking not only about Somalia, which was very much the focus of the Nairobi Declaration, but also South Sudan, which is the crisis that unfortunately at the moment produces the largest number of refugees. I visited South Sudan last summer, and some of the neighbouring countries that are generously keeping their doors open - Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo. But for how long can we take for granted their generosity and their hospitality? We have more than 2 million South Sudanese refugees and 2 million people displaced inside the country. If the crisis is not resolved, we forecast that the refugees will be 3 million in 2018. I really urge all of you, as States and political institutions, to invest as much as you can to support the leadership and the opposition of South Sudan to come to an agreement so that people can find peace and eventually go back.

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur le Premier Ministre.