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Update on the practical roll-out of the CRRF – Address at the Annual NGO Consultations

Speeches and statements

Update on the practical roll-out of the CRRF – Address at the Annual NGO Consultations

14 June 2017

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to join our Deputy High Commissioner and Assistant High Commissioner–Protection in welcoming you to this year’s UNHCR-NGO consultations focusing on the comprehensive refugee response framework. You as representatives from the civil society from all over the world, have been very proactive in shaping the practical application of the CRRF from the very beginning.  I could therefore not think of a more suitable way to start a series of global consultations and events dedicated to the CRRF and preparations towards the Global Compact on Refugees than through a lively and forward-looking exchange with you. 

I would like to take this opportunity to start with a broader update on the practical roll-out of the CRRF, which, as you recall, has 4 stated objectives as set by all 193 UN member States:  First, easing pressure on host communities, second, improving refugee self-reliance, third, increasing access to third country solutions and fourth, creating conditions in countries of origin for voluntary return in safety and dignity.

With the lead of the concerned governments, the detailed practical application of the CRRF has been initiated in a number of diverse country contexts: Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and more recently in Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico.  By its nature refugee situations extend throughout entire regions, therefore the CRRF also draws upon regional approaches, such as the Somalia Situation and in Central America and Mexico.

Concrete and important commitments towards the NYD and the CRRF were made by donors and host countries at the Leaders’ Summit on 20 September last year.The Implementation of these pledges is advancing at a good pace across CRRF roll out countries. For example, Djibouti adopted a new refugee law in January this year, shifting away from encampment towards a settlement approach and towards inclusion of refugees in services. Ethiopia, meanwhile, has initiated a comprehensive review of its Refugee Proclamation, which includes the right to work, access to education, as well as freedom of movement. In parallel, the government is laying the ground for large-scale initiatives, such as creating industrial parks for the employment of 100,000 persons -- including up to 30,000 refugees -- and availing 10,000 hectares of irrigable land for refugees and host communities, including access to irrigation schemes.

At regional level, the IGAD Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action which the Heads of States of IGAD countries adopted on 25 March 2017, provides an unprecedented opportunity for the Somalia situation to be addressed in a comprehensive way by connecting the policies in the host countries with the country of origin in a positive way and establishing a Regional CRRF. The Follow-up to the Nairobi Summit has since taken place both in form of the London Roundtable on Supporting Refugees and Host Communities in the Horn and East Africa in May 2017 and an expert-level meeting in Nairobi which is developing a detailed regional roadmap to complement national-level action plans.  For Central America and Mexico, national consultations building on the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action and last year’s San Jose Action Statement have been initiated in Honduras Guatemala and Costa Rica.

These developments have laid the foundation for the operationalization of the CRRF, which is now taking shape in roll-out countries through the formulation of national roadmaps, defining short and longer-term priorities, entry points for novel engagement and enhanced operational response, identifying the key gaps, as well as mobilization of additional actors and resources. This is needed to ensure predictable and sustainable financial support and engagement not only through humanitarian, but increasingly through development channels and the private sector.

Let me now elaborate on what a whole of society –approach has meant for us during the first months of applying the CRRF. A fundamental element has been supporting governments in bringing a wide range of national and sub-national authorities on board.This includes not only the traditional refugee counterparts in Government, but also those who plan for and decide on national and sub-national service delivery in essential sectors, such as health and education.

In Tanzania, for example, this has meant the establishment of a CRRF Secretariat co-chaired by the Department of Refugee Services, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government. The Secretariat structure includes line ministries, regional and district authorities, as announced by the government during the official CRRF launch in Dar es Salaam on 2 June. Many of the government offices involved in the work of the Secretariat have previously not been involved in refugee matters. This provides an opportunity for a paradigm shift with tangible implications in a country that has been applying an encampment policy for many years.

Beyond Government counterparts, the whole of society approach calls for the participation of national and international civil society including faith based and community-based organizations; international, inter-governmental and regional organizations; international financial institutions; development partners; private sector; academia; as well as refugee and host communities themselves.

The mobilization of all these actors requires a different approach from all of us.In our CRRF Task Team, we reflected this by including colleagues from the NGO community, the WB, ICRC, UNDP and OCHA. This will enable us to establish new partnerships with development actors, the private sector, host communities and refugees.One major new partnership I would like to highlight is the large programme of the WB for refugees and host communities, which plays an important role in the collaboration with Governments.

From the very beginning, NGOs have played an important and often defining role in the practical application of the CRRF.Our consultation today with over 300 organizations are testimony to this.

Let me take the example of Uganda where the Prime Minister chaired a CRRF workshop for 150 participants earlier this week and final preparations are taking place for the Solidarity Summit on 22-23 June. NGOs have submitted a comprehensive and impressive CRRF discussion paper in preparation for both events. The paper highlights the need for strengthening self-reliance and integrated programming for both refugees and host communities; involving development actors from the onset of an emergency, nurturing greater innovation and diversification of livelihoods; as well as developing a clear strategy to identify interventions aimed at longer- term sustainability, while maintaining principled humanitarian action.

These recommendations stem from the solid operational involvement of civil society both in the emergency in the North, as well in the protracted refugee situations in various parts of the country. Your experience and forefront engagement with refugee and host communities – both from a humanitarian and development angle – is of invaluable importance in contributing to the development of the CRRF roadmap, including short and longer-term interventions in line with priorities articulated in national and district development plans. Your experience in a range of critical protection functions, including empowerment of youth and women, prevention and response to SGBV, education, child protection and inclusion of persons with disabilities, calls for formulating these experiences into strategic and operational-level recommendations in the various stages of  the CRRF roll-out.

Another element to highlight is the active participation of civil society in key events that refine the direction for the CRRF. In Uganda, the upcoming side-event on NGO involvement at the Solidarity Summit will be led by the Ugandan Red Cross with the support of Oxfam and Save the Children.  (as well as of the successful discussion on the Grand Bargain follow-up co-chaired by Danish Refugee Council and DFID during the CRRF workshop in Kampala this week. )

At a structural level, the CRRF Secretariats which so far have been established in Uganda and Tanzania, and likely soon in Ethiopia, include representation from both national and international NGOs.

At global level, the NGO-IFRC-UNHCR Reference Group was formed in March 2017 with broad membership of regional networks as well as IFRC.  (African NGO Platform, Asia-Pacific PRRN, European ECRE, GAR, ICVA, InterAction, MENA CSND, ReDSS). The inputs, questions and feedback from the respective NGO members of these networks are shared with the group for discussion and follow-up. During the second meeting in May, the networks briefed on their activities around the CRRF and the Global Compact for Refugees, which form important contributions to our review of the concrete application of CRRF, the potential needs for its refinement and the added value it brings to the lives of refugees and the host communities.

We also had direct engagement at the regional level, both within the CRRF roll-out countries and more broadly, as demonstrated for example by the regional CRRF group for East African countries set-up by ReDSS, roundtable discussions organized by ECRE in Europe, and similar plans for APRRN for the Asia region. NGOs have contributed their capacity and expertise in various ways, such as the deployment of a roving consultant for Tanzania and Uganda by Plan International, and the position papers and guidance documents by ICVA and IRC. This broad range of participation by civil society, whether through programming adjustments, coalition building, policy dialogue, advocacy efforts or other channels is critical. We look forward to continuing and further strengthening our close collaboration along these tracks. 

Let me express a few concluding thoughts on the way ahead. The High Commissioner is expected to include a proposed global compact on refugees in his annual report to the United Nations General Assembly in November 2018. Lead-up activities towards the global compact on refugees consist of three elements: the practical application of the CRRF, a series of informal thematic consultations held between July-November 2017 in Geneva, EXCOM and the HC dialogue as well as stocktaking of lessons learnt and good practices. Consultations with states on the development of the GCR will begin in February 2018.  NGOs will play an important role in these events and consultations. 

A close collaboration between civil society and UNHCR is crucial not only in the practical application of the CRRF, but also in the identification and analysis of good practices and lessons learnt, and in sharing these observations through continued exchange of views and ideas. In this regard, I would like to raise a few questions for our common reflection:

  1. How can we further strengthen collaboration between civil society and private sector on refugee response, building on good practices for instance from Jordan and Uganda, but identifying more systematic and scalable approaches?
  2. How can we further live up to the commitments we collectively made at the Grand Bargain on the reinforcement of local civil society actors?
  3. How can we reinforce our joint call for additional support to ensure predictable and sustainable responses for refugee and host communities, notably by mobilizing additional development engagement? This could include building on the good initial steps on development financing with DEVCO, JICA, BMZ, but also exploring your operational development responses that may remain untapped for refugees.
  4. And finally, how can we reach out to powerful civil society voices at national level, with a strong voice towards government and other stakeholder but whose engagement remains presently outside the refugee sphere?

Above all, everything we are doing is for refugees.  Therefore I am looking forward to our discussions on how refugees and host communities can be central in shaping what a comprehensive response means in practice.   I look forward to inspiring discussions during the coming days.  Thank you.