Finding solutions to Afghan displacement key to the future, Grandi says

UN refugee chief tells high-level panel at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan the search for solutions to displacement 'must be intensified.'

Switzerland. Afghan Conference side event: People on the Move

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, moderates the Afghan Conference side event, People on the Move: Return and Reintegration in Afghanistan.  © UNHCR/Susan Hopper

GENEVA – As the Afghanistan conflict approaches its fortieth year, finding solutions for the millions who remain displaced is key to the country’s future, the UN refugee chief told a conference in Geneva.

“The question of Afghan displacement, and solutions to Afghan displacement, continues to be central to any debate about the future of Afghanistan,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a side event at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan.

Grandi, who was moderating a panel on People on the Move, said that some eight million Afghans are living away from home, six million in neighbouring countries and beyond, and two million displaced internally within its borders.

“I strongly believe that, as we are now approaching the end of the fourth decade of Afghan displacement, we must intensify the quest for solutions, even if solutions appear complex and challenging,” he added.

"We must intensify the quest for solutions, even if solutions appear complex and challenging."

Grandi noted that it was vital to maintain and reinforce refugee protection in the region and beyond. He also noted the complexity of ongoing Afghan population movements, calling for a broader migration management approach, and welcomed recent steps by Iran and Pakistan towards the regularization of undocumented Afghans. 

"Managing the complexity of Afghan movements ... should be how we approach together the solutions for this situation in support of the Afghan Government’s national plan for sustainable reintegration moving forward," he said.

The needs of millions of Afghan returnees are high on the agenda of the Conference at the Palais des Nations November 27- 28.

Led by the Government of Afghanistan and supported by the UN, the forum aims to take stock of the progress made in recent years, and the long-term interventions and investments needed for return and reintegration to be sustainable.

Since the early 2000s, some 5.2 million Afghan refugees have gone back home, although the pace of return has slowed in recent years amid a challenging security environment. Some 2.5 million refugees remain in the two neighbouring countries.

In his keynote address to the panel, the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government, Abdullah Abdullah, thanked Pakistan and Iran for “generously hosting Afghan refugees for years,” and highlighted some of the challenges that still need to be addressed.

“Much work remains to be done to create an environment that is conducive to return in safety and dignity, allowing us to promote sustainable reintegration,” he said.

"Work remains to be done to create an environment that is conducive to return in safety and dignity."

Abdullah said a “just, inclusive and durable peace” was needed to protect the gains made since 2001, and noted the need for continuing efforts by the international community to support the creation of conditions for voluntary and safe return.

“The way forward lies … also in strengthening the partnerships that foster conditions inside Afghanistan that will bring about longer-term solutions through job creation, community development and empowerment” and investment, “to create a society that can prosper and is ready to receive our Afghan brothers and sisters back home.”

Addressing the forum, Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, called on participants to remember the humanity of those on the move.

“These are people like you and me, these are people that need to be treated with human dignity … please treat them as human beings,” she said.

The First Lady called on the forum not to overlook the contribution of women in facilitating returns. “Don’t forget the women. They may be the main actors of change,” she said. “Once the wife, the mother, the woman of the family is resettled, then the whole family is resettled.”