ADDIS ABEBA – Ethiopia, together with four other key refugee-hosting countries, will co-convene a major forum next week to mobilize support for over 726, 000 refugees the East African nation currently hosting, officials said.
Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Germany, Pakistan and Turkey, world’s top five refugee-hosting nations, will convene for the first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in Geneva from 17-18 December 2019.
They are playing an important leadership function both in the preparation of the Forum and subsequent follow-up activities, says the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations or UNHCR.
The UN Refugee agency sees the forum as a critical opportunity to mobilize action towards the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).
The GCR is a new global deal to ensure a more predictable, systematic and sustainable response to refugee situations in a way that also benefits the communities that host them.
Ethiopia is one of the first few countries to sign up for the implementation of the new global deal and made nine pledges at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York in 2016.
Provide work permits to refugees, increase school enrolment rate, facilitate local integration in instances of protracted displacement, and provide access to civil documentation and basic and essential social services, are among the pledges the Ethiopian government made.
– Significant change –
The country revised its existing refugee law in January 2019, granting more rights to refugees and allowing them to be included in society.
The UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia, Ann Encontre, said Addis Ababa has already made significant progress in achieving some of the objectives of the GCR.
“The country is on course to ensure that refugees have the opportunity to be self-reliant and can contribute to local economies in a way that also benefits their hosts,” she said.
School enrolment has increased at all levels and refugees are registering their essential life events directly with local authorities, the refugee agency said.
Livelihoods opportunities have been created for refugees and local populations, particularly in Ethiopia’s Melkadida area, with a$100 million investment from the IKEA Foundation and an initial 1000 hectares of irrigable land made available by the Government.
– Need Support –
Deputy Director-General of Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), Addisu Kebenessa, said his government considers the upcoming Forum “as a unique opportunity in transforming the burden on host countries and communities”.
“As major refugee host countries, developing nations like Ethiopia, who do not have the required level of resources, should not be left alone to support the people in need of emergency responses and sustainable solutions,” he said.
“In this connection,” he continued, the “support of the international community is highly needed”.
According to UNHCR, the Forum will bring together governments, development agencies and financial institutions, among others, to share examples of best practices and announce new measures to ease pressures on host countries.
Ethiopia is expected to announce additional national commitments in line with the themes of the GRF.
The significant inflow of refugees over the past few years has made Ethiopia one of the largest refugee-hosting countries worldwide, currently hosting over 726,000 refugees in 27 refugee camps.
Most of them are from neighboring Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, as well as smaller numbers of refugees from Kenya, Syria, Yemen and other nationalities.
Generally, the Ethiopia refugee operation is characterized by both protracted and very complex emergency situations, according to UNHCR.
Image: Refugees in Nguenyyiel Gambela of Ethiopia, May 2019 [Photo File]