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Remarks to the Special Session on lessons learned and good practices in applying the comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF)

Speeches and statements

Remarks to the Special Session on lessons learned and good practices in applying the comprehensive refugee response framework (CRRF)

12 December 2017
High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Colleagues and friends,

I would like to thank you for providing me the opportunity to update you on the progress of the practical application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework - just over one year since the adoption of the NY Declaration and the Leaders’ Summit for Refugees.  The important commitments towards refugees and their host communities undertaken one year ago aimed at easing the pressure on host countries, enhancing refugee self-reliance, expanding third-country solutions, and supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

In the past fourteen months, 13 countries have begun formally applying the CRRF. These are Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Zambia in Africa, and Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and Belize in the Americas. There are two coordinated regional CRRF responses, in addition to national applications: the IGAD Special Summit on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and its Nairobi Declaration of 25 March.  And the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS), which was adopted in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on 26 October this year.

With the continued application of the CRRF in roll-out countries, a number of additional countries have expressed interest in applying the CRRF, with the aim of better including refugees in their communities. 

The approach of the CRRF has also been applied in a number of large-scale refugee situations, for example, the Syria situation, with the application of the 3RP and inclusive policies by refugee host countries.  The preliminary progress update provides a broad overview of good practices, including a good number beyond formal roll-out countries. 

In today’s presentation I will limit myself to the specific lessons learned and good practices of the roll-out countries.

In the past year, we have engaged with a large number of actors, including governments, international organizations, international financial institutions, regional organizations, civil society, the private sector and refugees themselves.  Significant progress has been made by a number of roll-out countries towards greater social and economic inclusion of refugees through access to social services, national educational curricula, livelihoods and legal employment.  I would also like to highlight some of the challenges, which are important as we move towards a wider application of the CRRF approach.

Key lessons learned

I would now like to present some of the key lessons learnt from the current roll-out countries.

In the relatively short time since the adoption of the New York Declaration, we have witnessed important changes towards more inclusive refugee policies in most roll-out countries.  Our first lesson learned was that increasing self-reliance, obtaining access to public services and enjoyment of rights for refugees required a broad set of legislative, policy, planning and operational changes in most host countries.  

Djibouti promulgated a new Refugee Law in January 2017, which was complemented by two Decrees to facilitate its implementation. One provides guidance on eligibility procedures, and the other on refugees’ access to employment and access to government services.  On the policy front, the Ministry of Education and partners signed an MOU in August, enabling refugees to access quality education in line with national standards for the first time in the refugee history of Djibouti.  These changes are wide-ranging and represent a complete departure from Djibouti’s earlier encampment policy. 

In Ethiopia, enrolment of refugee children has increased across all education levels, with 20,000 additional children in primary school alone. Refugee children now receive birth certificates following Vital Events Registration Act (VERA), while soon some of their parents may be seeking job opportunities in one of the industrial parks that will employ up to 30,000 refugees, as Ethiopia advances on the Jobs Compacts. With its forward looking policies, Ethiopia committed to progressively close all camps and will allow refugees to be part of Ethiopian society.

In the Americas, Mexico introduced important changes by giving refugees and asylum seekers greater access to the public health and welfare system. As we heard from the Vice President of Costa Rica this morning, refugees and asylum seekers have access to the labor market and social services. These positive steps represents the high standards of social and economic rights practiced in most Latin American countries.

Uganda, now Africa’s largest refugee hosting country, is pursuing one of the most progressive refugee policies, which grants refugees access to services, freedom of movement and the right to work.  A number of refugee hosting countries in Africa have visited Uganda and are considering adopting some of its policies and practices.  Based on Uganda’s experience and studies carried out by the World Bank, an increasing number of refugee hosting countries are realizing the economic and social benefits of policies that enable refugees to work and live together with their hosting communities.  To alleviate the immense burden on Uganda and to support its inclusive refugee policies, it is of great importance that donors live up to the pledges made at the Solidarity Summit in June this year.

The second lesson learned is the importance of government leadership.  In Tanzania, the National CRRF Steering Committee is jointly led by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government. This government-led facilitation mechanism for the CRRF includes line ministries, district authorities, the Resident Coordinator, UNHCR, development partners, national and international NGOs, academia, the World Bank and the private sector.  

In a number of roll-out countries, the establishment of dedicated mechanisms in the form of steering committees, secretariats and technical working groups has taken longer than initially anticipated and led to some delays in the formal application of the CRRF.  Yet this has proved to be an essential foundation for a truly comprehensive response – for mobilizing support of bilateral donors, for strengthening collaboration between humanitarian and development actors, and for enhancing broad-based government ownership.  As a result, refugees and host communities are now better represented in development strategies, road maps and work plans. 

The third lesson relates to the positive impact of regional CRRF mechanisms.  On 25 March 2017, the Heads of the IGAD Member States adopted the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia.  By doing so, they agreed to a comprehensive regional approach covering the host countries and Somalia as the country of origin.  The Declaration has led to a more harmonized asylum policy for Somali refugees in the region, supporting access to public services, out of camp policies and the right to work for refugees.  The positive momentum generated by the IGAD Summit has also inspired the recent AU Humanitarian Symposium held in Nairobi, as mentioned by the High Commissioner.

In Central America and Mexico, the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework or MIRPS represents a mechanism, which strengthens protection and enhances solutions for displaced persons in the region.  It includes a wide range of stake-holders and builds on regional cooperation and responsibility sharing mechanisms. 

This brings me to my fourth lesson, namely, the importance of easing the pressure on host countries through coordinated and coherent humanitarian and development interventions.  

Forced displacement has long been considered a humanitarian concern only and not part of the development agenda. In this, we have witnessed an important change.  The joint WB-UNHCR flagship report on “forcibly displaced: towards a development approach” encouraged new thinking from a socio-economic perspective.

The World Bank’s engagement in refugee situations, both through the IDA-18 refugee sub-window for lower income countries and the Global Concessional Financing Facility for middle-income countries, has been instrumental in supporting the establishment of more inclusive refugee policies and the strengthening of institutions. These new facilities also provide the much required additional and predictable funding to countries hosting refugees to address the medium- to longer-term socio-economic impact of displacement.

We have seen a number of development actors stepping-up their engagement in roll-out countries.  JICA, BMZ, DFID, the EU/DEVCO and other development partners have already contributed to the roll-out of the CRRF in Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, allocating several hundred million US Dollars towards refugee and host communities.   Of great importance is the engagement of development actors with the local authorities in refugee hosting areas as the capacity of the latter is greatly challenged in new refugee situations.

The active engagement of development actors has made an important contribution towards a more inclusive approach in CRRF roll-out countries.  It has also raised expectations among host populations and refugees.  Given the longer planning cycles of development action, we may not see a significant impact of development projects before 2019.  It is therefore important that expectations are managed and that humanitarian action is well supported in the meantime. 

In this connection we are pleased to note that last week’s pledging conference increased the initial support to UNHCR for 2018 and will provide us greater predictability.

Our fifth lesson relates to the importance of third country solutions.

Resettlement and complementary pathways are an essential part of international responsibility sharing.  The Emerging Resettlement Country Mechanism is now extended to Argentina, Brazil and Chile and helps build robust and sustainable resettlement and integration programmes.  The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative is a community-based sponsorship model, serving as an example of new, creative partnerships in action.  Further vertical and horizontal growth for resettlement and increased opportunities to access complementary pathways, such as scholarships, will be central elements of global responsibility sharing.

Our sixth lesson relates to the importance of partnerships.

One of the most active engagements in the CRRF was the one of the NGO Community.  Milestones were the NGO Consultations in June 2017 and the establishment of a regular dialogue with NGOs, including through the reference group.  NGOs made significant contributions in the roll-out countries and in the regional processes, provided best practices on refugee participation, gender, women and children and provided strong global advocacy. 

The engagement of UN Sister Agencies has also been of great importance, especially when advocating with line Ministries for the inclusion of refugees.  The efforts of the UNCTs and the RCs towards inclusion of refugees in the SDG have also played an important role.   Of specific mention should be the ILO “Guiding Principles on the Access of Refugees and other Forcibly Displaced Persons to Labour Markets”.  They have led to a joint UNHCR-ILO work plan which will enhance access to labour markets and decent work.

A promising addition is provided by the Global Partnership on Education with its commitment to support the inclusion of refugees in the national education plans with predictable funding.  GPE aims to secure 2 billion USD annually by 2020 to support education.

Earlier this year, UNHCR signed a letter of intent with the International Chamber of Commerce focusing on collaboration with the private sector in the areas of infrastructure, investment, education, employment and policy reform. The vast network of local chambers of commerce can play an invaluable role in advancing opportunities for refugees to access the labour market and foster broad-based private sector support, as demonstrated through existing engagement in Turkey and Kenya.  Many private sector actors have already demonstrated great value to refugees and host communities with innovative approaches and considerable financial support.

Our seventh lesson has been that refugees are assets and should be at the centre of decision making concerning their protection and well-being. 

The CRRF provides a renewed opportunity for all actors to consider how both refugees and host communities can systematically be engaged in the planning and implementation of a comprehensive response.  A good example are the recent consultations with refugees in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, where the early issuance of documents and collaboration between refugees and host communities were at the centre. The active engagement of the Youth Advisory Council throughout key events this year has also made an important difference. We are also committed to ensure that the CRRF is applied in a gender-sensitive manner in all its elements, ranging from health and education to access to economic opportunities.

As we move into the second year and expand the practical application of the CRRF,

Our last and possibly the most important lesson is that we need to ensure a balanced implementation of the four objectives of the CRRF. 

  • To ease pressures on host countries
  • To enhance refugee self-reliance
  • To expand access to third-country solutions, and
  • To support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

If progress to date has been most significant toward enhancing refugee self-reliance by hosting countries, we have to recall that all four objectives are interdependent and indivisible.  Attention only to the second objective, without a balance among the other three, will not be sustainable.

We must therefore pursue all four objectives with equal vigor.

With only 10 countries, hosting 60% of the world’s refugees, 10 countries providing 93% of UNHCR’s budget and 3 countries accounting for 90% of refugee resettlement, the burden and responsibility for refugees rests for the time being with few member states.  The New York Declaration and the CRRF call on a broadening of participation of all Member States and actors to support the significant advances and commitments of host countries.  In this regard, greater predictability and transparency in burden- and responsibility-sharing is critical.  

Thank you.