UNHCR's governing ExCom renews commitment to Africa's refugees

ExCom also expressed concern about the spiral of violence and displacement, and commended African communities for their hospitality and solidarity with millions.

A young woman from Central African Republic mother and her child in Mbile refugee camp, eastern Cameroon.  © UNHCR/F.Noy

GENEVA, September 30 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency's Executive Committee (ExCom), made a fresh commitment in Geneva on Tuesday, to preventing humanitarian emergencies in Africa and ending protracted displacement situations on the continent.

The commitment came at the end of a high-level segment on Africa that kicked off the governing body's annual week-long meeting on Monday. ExCom's 94 member states also 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.

War and persecution across the world have forced more than 15 million people to flee their homes in Africa, either across borders or within their own country.

Participants in the high level Africa segment were troubled by insufficient progress toward 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.

ExCom 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, according to a press release.

In a joint statement, the Executive Committee called upon African states and the rest of the international community to invest in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding efforts; continue to provide safe asylum and protection to forcibly displaced people; strengthen emergency response capacity of governments and host communities; and take all necessary measures to combat trafficking and smuggling of people and ensure a protection sensitive response to the challenges of mixed migration.

The statement also noted the need to 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.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres welcomed the commitment by ExCom 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. "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".

For the full statement, go to http://www.unhcr.org/542a5d8c9.html