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High Commissioner’s Global Initiative on Somali Refugees

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The Somali refugee situation, now in its third decade, is among the most protracted in the world today. Over one million Somalis remain displaced outside Somalia. Among them are some 10,000 refugees in Dadaab camp, Kenya, who have been born to refugees who were themselves born as refugees. They represent the second generation born in exile.

However, since 2012 Somalia has experienced possibly the most decisive, even if still fragile, improvement in its political and security situation for 23 years. In this context, which is as challenging as it is promising, the High Commissioner's Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR) is seeking ways to create and advance durable solutions for Somali refugees. The GISR will engage key stakeholders and world leaders in a dialogue in late 2013 and early 2014 to think about fresh approaches to the protracted refugee situation. The initiative also aims to galvanise coordinated international action to find durable solutions.

The first event of the GISR was a High-Level Panel on Somali refugees which took place on 13-14 November in Geneva. The meeting brought together a group of 24 experts, including members of the Somali diaspora, civil society leaders from the region, academics, businessmen, former diplomats and senior UN officials. The High Commissioner was supported by the Deputy High Commissioner and the Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa to facilitate the discussions.

Here is the background paper that was written for the High-Level Panel by Dr Laura Hammond of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and a summary of the background paper.

Members of the UNHCR High Level Panel on Somali Refugees

13-14 November 2013

  • 1. Mohammed Abdiker (Director of Operations and Emergencies, International Organization for Migration)
  • 2. Mohammed Affey (former Kenyan ambassador to Somalia)
  • 3. Dr Mag teerey Ibrahim Ahmed (Djibouti nominee, professor of development studies)
  • 4. Ibrahim Al-Adoofi (Former Yemen Ambassador to UN in Geneva)
  • 5. Jeff Crisp (Senior Director, Refugees International)
  • 6. Abdirashid Duale (CEO, Dahabshiil group)
  • 7. Ilwad Elman (Director of Programs and development, Elman Peace Centre, Mogadishu)
  • 8. Afyare Elmi (Assistant Professor, Qatar University)
  • 9. Dr Abdulcadir Giama (Founder-president, Galkayo Medical Foundation)
  • 10. Laura Hammond (Senior lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies)
  • 11. Osman Hassan (Somalia nominee, consultant on conflict resolution)
  • 12. Abdulkadir Issa (Ethiopia nominee, previous career with refugees in Horn of Africa)
  • 13. Jakob Kellenberger (former President, ICRC)
  • 14. Lucy Kiama (Kenya nominee, Executive Director, Refugee Consortium of Kenya)
  • 15. David Lambo (former Director, UNHCR Regional Bureau for Africa)
  • 16. Ayan Mahamoud (Director, Kayd Somali Arts and Culture, London)
  • 17. Augustine Mahiga (former UN Special Representative to Somalia)
  • 18. David Miliband (President and CEO, International Rescue Committee; former UK foreign Secretary)
  • 19. Scholastica Nasinyama (Uganda nominee, Executive Director, InterAid Uganda)
  • 20. Kathleen Newland (Director of Migrants, Migration, and Development and refugee Protection Programs, Migration Policy Institute)
  • 21. Elisabeth Rasmusson (Assistant Executive Director, World Food Programme)
  • 22. Ahmed Samatar (Professor, Macalester College)
  • 23. Eric Schwartz (Dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota)
  • 24. Cees Wittebrood (Head, West/ East/ Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Dept, DG ECHO)


  • 1. António Guterres, High Commissioner
  • 2. T. Alex Aleinikoff, Deputy High Commissioner
  • 3. George Okoth-Obbo, Director, Regional Bureau for Africa


The publications signposted here are a brief and introductory list for the High-Level Panel members who may wish to read more about various aspects of the Somali refugee problematic. The list also gives some readings from other contexts, as these could help illuminate our examination of the Somali situation. Please note that the literature is much more exhaustive than this list, as only readings which are freely accessible online have been noted here.

The Somali Refugee Experience

Clans in Somali

Refugee views on return

Role of the Private Sector

Transnationalism and Somali diaspora

Other Protracted Refugee Situations

Refugee self-reliance