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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 - a third generation of refugees is being born in exile. Nearly 1 million Somalis are displaced in the near region, and a further 1.1 million are displaced within Somalia. Against the backdrop of tentative political and security improvements in Somalia, the High Commissioner's Global Initiative on Somali Refugees (GISR) is seeking ways to create dialogue and generate ideas for sustainable solutions for Somali refugees.

The following events have been organized to further the aims of GISR:

  • High Level Panel, Geneva, August 2013: A group of 24 academics, returnees and members of the Somali diaspora, civil society leaders from the region, former diplomats, senior UN officials, and businessmen helped formulate 14 guiding principles to shape action towards solutions. A link to the report can be found on this page, or click here for an interview with panel member Ilwad Elman, speaking from personal experience about the opportunities and challenges for return to Somalia today.
  • Ministerial meeting, Addis Ababa, August 2014: UNHCR brought together ministers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen, along with representatives of UNSOM, African Union, and IGAD, to agree a regional approach to solutions. Participants unanimously adopted the Addis Ababa Commitment towards Somali Refugees, which seeks to preserve asylum space while conditions in Somalia prevent large-scale return, as well as supporting voluntary spontaneous return to safe areas and improving refugee self-reliance in exile. A call was made for greater support from the international community.
  • Ministerial Pledging Conference, Brussels, October 2015: This meeting aimed to engage the international community in the search for solutions for Somali refugees. It was co-hosted with the European Union and raised USD 105 million towards an Action Plan for interventions in Somalia (to create conditions for sustainable voluntary return) and Kenya (to support host communities, address security needs, and improve refugee resilience). Delegates from over 50 States and organizations attended. Non-financial pledges were also made by delegates. You can find the conference web page here.
  • Diaspora roundtables 2014-2015, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA: UNHCR has held roundtables with the global Somali diaspora to assess the interest in using their skills to meet the needs of Somali refugees in the East and Horn of Africa. Based on the overwhelmingly positive results, in the coming months UNHCR will lead on designing a mechanism towards this.

In addition to the above, GISR is leading on generating dialogue towards defining a regional approach to Somali refugee education across host countries, with a view to better preparing them for solutions.

You will also see on this page links to films produced under GISR; one documents the experience of third-generation refugees in Dadaab, and the other documents the experience of return to Somalia.




Ministerial Pledging Conference on Somali Refugees

The conference, which will took place in Brussels on 21 October 2015, and focused on creating conditions for voluntary return.

Return to SomaliaPlay video

Return to Somalia

Ali and his family are ready to return to Somalia after living in Dadaab refugee camp for the past five years. We follow their journey from packing up their home in the camp to settling into their new life back in Somalia.

Kenya: A Lifetime of WaitingPlay video

Kenya: A Lifetime of Waiting

Sarah was born and raised in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Now 21, she has become a wife and mother without ever setting foot outside the camp.

The Addis Ababa Commitment towards Somali refugees

The Addis Ababa Commitment, adopted recently by UNHCR and regional governments, is a major step forward in the search for sustainable solutions for the more than 1 million Somali refugees.