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Dialogue on Africa return opens Monday

Briefing notes

Dialogue on Africa return opens Monday

5 March 2004

Monday marks the opening of the Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa. The meeting, here in Salle XIX of the Palais des Nations, will bring together representatives of some 60 countries, including at least 13 key African ministers, senior officials from donor governments and other partners. They will be discussing peace processes that over the next few years present unprecedented opportunities to find solutions for Africa's protracted refugee problems. These positive developments could lead to the return of up to 2 million refugees and many millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

We have organised this meeting because of our optimism that the people of Africa are on the road to resolving some of the most protracted refugee and displacement situations on the continent. We see multiple possibilities for the potential repatriation of up to 2 million refugees from several African states, some of which are already underway, some are well into the planning stages, and others await further political developments or the consolidation on the ground of the necessary conditions for large-scale voluntary return. We are optimistic about the direction things are going in at least nine African countries (Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo) that between them account for more than 5 million refugees and internally displaced people

Given the enormous potential for finding lasting solutions for so many people, UNHCR believes the international community needs to seize this opportunity and take a comprehensive regional approach toward ensuring repatriation and sustainable reintegration in Africa. We want to ensure that delegates from countries of origin and asylum as well as aid officials, donors and other partners recognise the momentum that's building on the African continent and establish the necessary links to ensure that these upcoming return movements are successful and sustainable.

The meeting will be opened by High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers, who will be joined by keynote speakers Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid; Julia D. Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Commission of the African Union; and Julia Taft, Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme. Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane will close the proceedings. A great many states, UN agencies and other partners have asked to address the conference. The Dialogue, together with the regional side meetings on repatriation and reintegration operations in West and Central Africa and in East and Southern Africa planned for March 9 will be open to the media.