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African Union

African Union

The African Union (AU) is one of UNHCR’s most important partners and a leader in global efforts to resolve forced displacement, which causes suffering for tens of millions of people.

Forcible displacement is a significant challenge facing Africa – the hardest-hit continent, with more than a third (some 20 million people) of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people.

The AU, founded in May 2001 and headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a union of 55 member states that work together to address major political, social and economic issues, including preventing and ending conflict and promoting pan-African development and integration through its ambitious Agenda 2063. The organization’s motto, “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,” sums up its guiding ethos.

Forced displacement has always been high on the agenda of the AU, and the Organization for African Unity (OAU) that preceded it. Under their watch, landmark treaties on refugees and on internal displacement have been adopted and have helped millions in Africa and beyond.

The relationship between the UN Refugee Agency, the AU and the former OAU stretches back five decades, growing increasingly close in recent years. UNHCR has since 2009 had official representation to the AU in Addis Ababa, and this office provides support in several areas. Relations were strengthened when High Commissioner Filippo Grandi attended the AU Summit in February 2019.

At that Summit, the AU put the issue of forced displacement firmly in the spotlight, designating 2019 as its “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons”, with the aim of promoting durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa.

A full programme of events is being organized by AU Commission to spread awareness about the theme, bring global visibility to forced displacement in Africa and commemorate the 50th and 10th anniversaries respectively of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention and the 2009 AU Convention on IDPs, better known as the Kampala Convention. UNHCR is supporting these events and the theme of the year.