Lubbers: Include refugees in development process
UNITED NATIONS - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today urged African leaders to incorporate refugees and returnees in their new plan for the continent's economic recovery.
Lubbers, who is attending a special session on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) at United Nations headquarters in New York, said there could be no durable solutions for Africa's refugees and returnees unless they were fully integrated in the development process.
"That's why I am pleased to note that the first priority areas of NEPAD is peace and security, which includes issues such as prevention, management and resolution of conflict," Lubbers said. "Peace and security are very much linked to the work of my office. They are preconditions to any sustainable solutions for millions of refugees and displaced persons."
In tackling the problem of population displacement, Lubbers added, "we need to look beyond humanitarian assistance and develop new approaches. NEPAD offers us a fresh opportunity to effectively address Africa's deepening refugee crisis."
He called for a broad-based partnership of governments, humanitarian and development agencies and NGOs to help bridge the yawning gap between emergency relief and the longer-term development needs of refugees and returnees. Such "joint venture" efforts will increase the self-sufficiency of refugees in countries of asylum and help their reintegration once they return home.
In dealing with the return of refugees, Lubbers has proposed what he terms the "4Rs Plan" - repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction. In discussions with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and UNDP Chief Mark Malloch Brown, Lubbers has suggested ways in which the three organisations can collaborate in developing the 4Rs plan.
In protracted refugee situations, the High Commissioner is promoting a second approach known as development through local integration or DLI. Rather than treating refugees simply as a burden, host countries and the international community should recognise that refugees can be agents of development. One concrete example of this has already been seen in Zambia, where efforts to enable refugees to become self-sufficient, through activities aimed at supporting agricultural projects and small businesses, have had positive effects on the local economy as well.
"By integrating refugees into the socio-economic fabric of their host country, we can also address the challenge of improving overall peace and security," Lubbers said. "For example, we can reduce idleness in the camps - which can have very negative consequences - while providing constructive opportunities for refugees to contribute to the development of the host country. At the same time, they will also be equipped with skills which can contribute to rebuilding their own countries once they can go home. It's a win-win situation."
There are currently 4.2 million people of concern to UNHCR in Africa, including approximately 3 million refugees affected by protracted conflicts.