The majority of refugees in Ethiopia are located in Tigray Regional State and the four “Emerging Regions”. These are also known as the least developed regions in the country, characterized by harsh weather conditions, poor infrastructure, low capacity, high level of poverty and poor development indicators. The arid environment in Afar and Somali regions and the small and scattered nomadic populations make it more challenging to provide services. Many parts of the four regions are inaccessible with poor or no roads.

The Government of Ethiopia, together with UNHCR, other humanitarian organizations, development actors, donor agencies, and the private sector, have been working on a range of initiatives to address the socio-economic needs of refugees and host communities. In February 2017, Ethiopia accepted to be considered as a CRRF focus country. 

Government pledges towards a more comprehensive response

At the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, which Ethiopia co-hosted on 20 September 2016 in New York, the country made the following pledges:

  1. To expand the “out-of-camp” policy to benefit 10per cent 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 preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, without discrimination and within available resources.
  5. To make 10,000 hectares of irrigable land available, to enable 20,000 refugees and host community households (100,000 people) to grow crops.
  6. To allow local integration for refugees who have lived in Ethiopia for over 20 years.
  7. To work with industrial partners to build industrial parks to employ up to 100,000 individuals, with 30 per cent 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 Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) can be regarded as a vehicle to accompany the implementation of Ethiopia’s nine pledges. The Government has increasingly sought a more sustainable response that goes beyond care and maintenance of refugees to promote their self-reliance. This approach combines wider support to host communities, fostering peaceful coexistence and greater inclusion of refugees in national development plans. Ethiopia became one of the first countries to initiate the implementation of the CRRF along the lines of the New York Declaration, in February 2017.

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 will be 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 these pledges into a legally-binding Comprehensive Proclamation. The Government has also prepared a draft implementation plan in collaboration with UNHCR, line ministries, federal agencies and the donors based in Ethiopia.

The CRRF is expected to go beyond the Government’s pledges made at the Leaders’ Summit. It will contribute to a more holistic and predictable response to refugee arrivals, including maintaining access to asylum, guaranteeing safe and dignified reception; addressing ongoing protection needs; supporting host populations and local authorities; and facilitating a transition to local solutions.


 Within the context of the CRRF, UNHCR will 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 seeks to ensure a more effective response to the developmental 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 be paid to enhance relations between humanitarian and development actors with a view to ensuring the sustainability of current interventions and benefitting refugees and host communities alike.

In response to local conflict in and around refugee communities in Gambela, the Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, UNDP, UNWOMEN and other partners a initiating a project to improve community security, protection and access to justice in four districts and seven camps, in particular building capacities of local institutions.

Ethiopia will benefit from a US$100 million fund from the World Bank under the DRDIP (Development Response Displacement Impact Program) 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.

Way forward

Ethiopia is currently the 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 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.

Ethiopia has proposed to facilitate the follow-up to the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia. UNHCR Ethiopia has been identified as a pilot operation to test the multi-year multi-planning process.

This is expected to have a positive bearing on the capacity to implement the pledges, fulfil the CRRF and ensure the long-term impact of ongoing activities, by bringing together the full range of national and international partners and stakeholders to plan together with a longer-term vision, leveraging all comparative advantages to tackle and resolve protection and solutions challenges in a sustainable way

Current challenges

  • A number of growing challenges will impede the application of the CRRF if not addressed in an appropriate manner, including continuous drought in many regions, tensions – that led to the current State of Emergency -, 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 (that has led to critical shortfalls in food assistance), limited opportunities for third-country resettlement, together with 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 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 Steering Committee 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: UNHCR asks third-country governments – in cooperation and with the support of other stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and diaspora organizations - to establish and expand complementary pathways for refugees living in CRRF pilot countries. 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 per cent of the Eritrean refugee population are children, of whom 25 per cent are UASC, and approximately 80 per cent of Eritrean UASC have relatives outside Eritrea (35 per cent in Europe; 35 per cent in Ethiopia; 15 per cent Israel; 15 per cent other), we request 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: the Operating Plan for the refugee response in 2017 is US$307.5 million. This plan is currently funded at 20 per cent.