UNHCR Executive Committee renews commitment to Africa's refugees

Today, at the end of a high-level meeting held in Geneva, the 94 member states of UNHCR's Executive Committee renewed their commitment to preventing humanitarian emergencies in Africa and ending protracted displacement situations on the continent.

War and persecution have forced more than 15 million people to flee their homes, either across borders or within their own country. Member states expressed deep concern about the spiral of violence and displacement, and commended African communities for their hospitality and solidarity with millions of refugees and people who have been displaced within their own country.

Member states were equally troubled by insufficient progress in solving the many protracted displacement situations on the continent and by the major protection challenges that persist. The delivery of humanitarian aid has been hindered by limited access and insecurity. They also noted that despite record levels of voluntary contributions, serious funding shortages have resulted in the reduction of food rations and basic services for refugees and hampered progress in finding durable solutions.

In a joint statement, the Executive Committee called upon African states and the rest of the international community to:

  • Invest in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts;
  • Continue to provide safe asylum and protection to forcibly displaced people;
  • Strengthen emergency response capacities of governments and host communities;
  • Take all necessary measures to combat trafficking and smuggling of people and ensure a protection-sensitive response to the challenges of mixed migration;
  • Redouble efforts to realize durable solutions, including sustainable voluntary repatriation and increasing opportunities for resettlement and local integration, as well as self-reliance programmes;
  • Include the needs of forcibly displaced people and returnees together with host communities in development and poverty reductions strategies; and
  • Provide adequate and effective financial assistance to support the forcibly displaced and the communities hosting them.

Member states acknowledged the importance of engaging non-government organizations and civil society in assistance and development efforts, as well as strengthening local capacities.

High Commissioner Guterres welcomed the commitment by the Executive Committee to do more for refugees and internally displaced people in Africa. "Displacement in Africa is not receiving enough attention in the global media and political debate", he said. "It is our obligation to put it back on the international agenda with the priority it needs and deserves".

Guterres also acknowledged the enormous solidarity and generosity of African states in keeping their borders open for those fleeing war and persecution. This solidarity is deeply rooted in African culture and its solid legal framework. "But it is clear", he said, "that this solidarity needs to be matched by strong international support, not only for the refugees, but also for the host communities".

The full statement of the Executive Committee on Enhancing Cooperation, Solidarity, Local Capacities and Humanitarian action in Africa can be found here: http://www.unhcr.org/542a5d8c9.html

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