This morning, I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) for a program on “Management Forced Displacement in Africa: How Collective Efforts Can More Effectively Address the Surge of Refugees and Displaced Persons.” The event was live streamed (and archived) here.
The event was tied to the Africa Day which is celebrated on May 25: the annual commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Union established in 1963 (today’s African Union or AU). The event was sponsored by USIP, the African Diplomatic Corps, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
The event was opened by Nancy Lindborg, who is president of USIP. She also moderated the discussion. Congresswomen Karen Bass (D-CA) provided opening remarks. She is chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Bass stressed the importance of this issue to U.S. foreign policy and that the issue is a critical one that the U.S. must play a role in. We must look at root causes as well as providing assistance to countries hosting displaced individuals, now numbering 68 million. She lauded the Kampala Convention as a model for treating internally displaced persons in Africa.
Ambassador Soorooj Phokeer of Mauritius followed with brief comments thanking the hosts of the event. He was followed by Carol Thompson O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) at the State Department. She talked about the need for a “durable solution to forced displacement.” She pointed out that there are 7 million refugees in Africa, but 13 million internally displaced persons. She mentioned Uganda’s policy allocating land to refugees as well as Tanzania’s efforts at integration, as important efforts. She also mentioned the efforts of the U.S. government through PRM and USAID to provide 3.8 billion dollars in aid to Africa on this issue. She also mentioned the “Education Cannot Wait” effort that is working to advance education with displaced youth.
The panelists are listed below. I’ve also indicated comments they made after their names.
Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda
Removing the stamp of “refugee” is important. A big effort now is re-patriating Rwandans who left in 1994. Need public/private partnerships to solve the problem: but refugees are not good consumers. Must have compassion for people and their situation.
Wilson Mutagaywa Kajumula Masilingi
Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania
Tanzania provides refugees with the opportunity to become citizens. The country is trying to get away from the notion of “refugees.” Must end conflict and war: that is what has caused displacement. Must continue integration efforts.
Mull Ssebujja Katende
Ambassador of the Republic of Uganda
The Ugandan model is designed to provide new opportunities for refugees. Plots of land are provided and they have the freedom to travel around the country. There are also opportunities to build skills. The current approaches are challenged by the case of South Sudan with the large numbers of displaced people. Need to solve the root causes of displacement. Kampala Convention gives responsibility to the states. Accountability is important.
Regional Representative of the UN Refugee Agency for the United States of America and the Caribbean, UNHCR
He mentioned a recent World Bank effort to provide funding for countries hosting refugees. This is called “Comprehensive Compact on Refugees.” Increasingly, the aid community is looking at the convergence of humanitarian and development needs in funding. There is still a tremendous need for funding. Need more support of education efforts with displaced people. 58% of those displaced do not live in camps. Must have an African solution for Africans.
Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the East and Horn of Africa, UNHCR
Talked about his experiences as a South Sudanese refugee. Others need to understand the experience of those who are displaced.