UNHCR, States vow to step up support for solutions for those displaced by Central African crises
YAOUNDE - A new declaration calling for more concerted action to help nearly 1.4 million displaced Central Africans has been signed after a key regional conference organized by the Government of Cameroon and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Speaking at the three-day ministerial conference in Yaounde, which ended Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the aim of the conference was “to create a positive regional dynamic in the search for solutions for Central Africans refugees.”
“This must be done in a large alliance of governments, aid communities, businesses, development actors, civil society, private sector groups and, crucially, the refugees themselves, in particular women,” he added.
The Yaounde Declaration marks the first step towards the establishment of a regional coordination mechanism for advancing solutions to one of Africa’s largest displacement crises.
Since 2013, the CAR has experienced successive crises affecting six neighboring countries that today host around 700,000 refugees. Cameroon has received the largest number of refugees (345,000), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (212,000), the Republic of Chad (119,000), the Republic of Congo (29,000), Sudan (28,000) and South Sudan (2,500).
Speaking of the challenges of hosting large numbers of refugees, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute of Cameroon said that despite the efforts States were making, the economic context was difficult. Hence, “the necessity to pool efforts in a framework of a regional approach to define global and concerted solutions to obtain better results.”
The parties to the Declaration agreed to “establish a regional cooperation framework to strengthen protection and the search for solutions for persons forcibly displaced by the Central African crisis with the support of the international community.”
In reference to the 2019 peace accord and the recommendations of the March 2022 Republican Dialogue, in which refugees and internally displaced people participated, the signatories of the Declaration further committed to “support the ongoing reconciliation process in the Central African Republic and urge for the effective participation of forcibly displaced persons and returnees.”
Represented by Ministers and senior government officials, the countries of asylum committed to enhancing refugee protection and promoting their socio-economic inclusion while they wait for conditions to improve so that they can return home.
These solutions include the removal of legal barriers to employment opportunities, training, and access to social services. In the declaration, the signatories agreed to integrate refugees in national registration systems, “facilitate the issuance of civil documentation and to ensure their recognition by public and private services and financial institutions.”
Despite the challenges, opportunities for return exist. Over 100,000 Central African refugees have already returned home spontaneously, while between 2017 and 2021, UNHCR facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 27,000 refugees. In addition, 60,000 internally displaced people have also been able to return.
However, as these efforts have occurred in isolation, the Conference agreed to establish a coordination mechanism for solutions with support from UNHCR, which has three such regional instruments in place: for the Afghan crisis; in Central America and Mexico; and in the East and Horn of Africa.
Virginie Baikoua, CAR’s Minister for Humanitarian Action, thanked partners for their support and reassured them of her country’s determination to restore peace and stability. Organized under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Cameroon, the Regional Ministerial Conference on Solutions in the Context of Forced Displacement Related to the Central African Crisis brought together 300 participants: donors, the UN, development and humanitarian partners, the private sector, as well as refugees. Representatives from the European Union and the Economic Community of Central African States indicated their support.
Before attending the conference, Grandi met Central African refugees in Yaounde, who welcomed the focus on their situation. A community leader told him that the refugees want to be considered as development facilitators, not a burden.
Read the Yaounde declaration here.
Read the Yaounde recommendations here.
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