Driven by a combination of conflict, cyclic climatic and development shocks, and underpinned by poor governance, food insecurity, environmental degradation and poverty, displacement in East and Horn of Africa is consistently high, protracted and dynamic. At the end of October 2017, East Africa was home to over half of Africa’s internally displaced people (IDPs) and there were 13.1 million people displaced in the region- with the majority of displaced coming from or inside South Sudan and Somalia, and at least half are children.
The scale and persistent nature of displacement in the region – at a time of high levels of global attention to migration – has pushed the issue of addressing displacement up national, regional and global agendas. There is recognition that new approaches and durable solutions are required. Due in part to the work of ReDSS since 2015, interest in durable solutions in the region is unprecedented. This evolving situation presents a major window of opportunity for ReDSS to shift from putting durable solutions on the agenda, to shaping and informing its direction and implementation.
There are promising political and policy developments at many levels. The Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia, signed by IGAD member states in March 2017, signaled regional commitment to addressing the displacement of Somalis and reflected IGAD’s increasingly influential role in forced displacement and migration. The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) is being rolled out in several countries in the region. Significant developments are also occurring at national levels including: initiatives to improve prospects for local integration for long-term refugees; efforts to establish alternatives to camps; and the inclusion of displacement and durable solutions in national development plans.
International donors have increased financial multi-year support for durable solutions, and aid agencies’ programmatic and policy engagement in the issue has expanded. The engagement of development actors, such as the World Bank, has become more systematic. The involvement of development actors from the start informs medium to long term sectorial priorities and ensures development programing complements humanitarian interventions. ReDSS work allows it to leverage the different expertise of multi-stakeholder actors to strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus within a common solutions framework. ReDSS work with local government and actors is based on mutual respect and trust- creating an open space for dialogue on solutions policy – gaps and opportunities.
The progressive settlement approach demonstrated by Uganda has been an example to follow not just in the region but globally. This ‘displacement affected communities’ approach- inclusive of refugees and host communities – which supportsintegrated programing for both displaced and host communities is critical to ensure the sustainability of solutions processes. It is essential to support the safe and meaningful involvement of displacement affected communities in decisions and programming that affects their lives factoring in appropriate economic, environmental and social considerations (legal, material and physical safety).
With so much momentum at the policy level, it is important to ensure that the durable solutions agenda is not top-down, and disconnected from the contextual realities and needs of displacement-affected communities.
ReDSS members have made commitments to ‘foster localized approaches and better engage local actors and communities in the search for durable solutions’. This comes at a time of wider humanitarian and development efforts – including through the World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain – to localise humanitarian and development action and increase the participation of affected communities. As the membership of ReDSS comprises NGOs operational in displacement-affected countries across the region, ReDSS is in an advantageous position to bring evidence, learning and policy perspectives that are country- and context-specific and grounded in the realities of displacement-affected communities.