Mr. Andrew Banda, Director Department of Resettlement Mr Abdon Mawere, Commissioner for Refugees Ambassadors, High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps Senior government officials The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Janet Rogan Colleagues from the United Nations in Zambia Members of the media Invited Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for joining us at the national stakeholders consultations for UNHCR’s Multi-year, Multi-partner Protection and Solutions Strategy.
Today’s gathering will support our collective efforts to address the immediate, medium and long-term needs of refugees in Zambia. Likewise, your contributions and deliberations will also assist the Government of the Republic of Zambia to set its strategic direction for the practical implementation of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in the country.
Before I begin, I would like to thank the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees for its continuous leadership and efforts to ensure that refugees, asylum seekers, former refugees, stateless persons, as well as the communities that host them are able to live a dignifying life in Zambia. I would also like to recognize the dedication and support from all other government departments, line ministries, NGOs, the UN Resident Coordinator, UN Agencies and cooperating partners who have over the years provided assistance and investment to improve the lives of those who have come to Zambia in search for peace and security.
Zambia has a long-lasting history of providing international protection and durable solutions to refugees fleeing violence and persecution in the region and beyond. While in recent years it was known for hosting a protracted caseload of Rwandan and Angolan refugees, most of whom repatriated in the tens of thousands after the cessation of their status, it has now been struck by a silent, but impactful emergency due to political instability in its next-door countries. This is a reminder to all of us that as long as there are no concrete political solutions to the difficulties our neighbors may be facing, women, girls, boys and men will continue to see Zambia as a safe haven where they can pursue a life without the fear of losing it.
While some of you may be familiar with the refugee situation in the country and others may be hearing this for the first time, Zambia currently hosts about 74,000 Persons of Concern – this includes refugees, asylum seekers and new residents, namely the Angolans and Rwandans who accepted the generous possibility offered by the Government to be locally integrated. Of this cumulative figure, about 45,000 are refugees, 83% of whom are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact, over 21,000 of them have sought asylum in Zambia in the last year and a half only!
While more than 10,000 new arrivals have been settled in Mantapala, a recently established refugee settlement in Nchelenge District in Luapula Province, over 21,000 persons of concern live in Kalumbila District, 12,000 in Kaoma District, over 14,000 in urban areas such as Lusaka and Ndola, and another 15,000 have self-settled across 5 Provinces. In short, UNHCR’s operations are countrywide, though the challenges and opportunities that refugees and the communities that host them are unique to each location, calling for a comprehensive, context specific response.
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
UNHCR’s protection and solutions driven mandate require its staff to be present in the field, delivering life-saving assistance, especially during a refugee emergency. As a first responder to such crises, it is many times required to provide services which in the long run may not be sustainable, yet at that moment are required in order to save lives, particularly of the most vulnerable groups. This direct service implementation characteristic is an added value to the United Nations system in Zambia, which as a Delivering as One country, has the ability to complement UNHCR’s strong field presence with other specialized Agencies that work hand-in-hand with Government line ministries. While working through these ministries, the Government’s planning and implementation capacity is enhanced in a way that it provides the possibility for it to take over the response and provide services such as health, WASH, education, among others.
To reach this point however, I am aware and recognize that we cannot achieve the desired results in isolation. In fact, I am not alone. In September 2016, 193 Member States ratified the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants which calls for a new way of working in which all members of society have a role to play when it comes to protecting and finding solutions to refugees and the communities that host them. The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, which goals are to i) ease pressure on host countries, ii) enhance refugees’ self-reliance, iii) expand access to thirdcountry solutions including resettlement, and iv) support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity, is how the international community believes Governments and society should address force displacement in pursuit of achieving peace, prosperity and sustainable development.
In an effort to contribute to this vision, UNHCR’s Global Strategic Directions calls for Operations to develop multi-year, multi-partner protection and solutions strategies. Essentially what this means, is that in order to provide a comprehensive response from the moment in which refugees enter the country up to the moment in which a durable solution is attained, UNHCR needs to work with a wide variety of actors across all sectors and Government to effectively carry out its mandate. Likewise, it recognizes that its three durable solutions, namely resettlement, local integration and repatriation, take time. In average, a refugee can spend up to 17 years in a refugee camp. In Zambia, some have been living in Mayukwayukwa or Meheba for up to 50 years! As such, and in an effort to strengthen its ties with development partners, UNHCR needs to plan with a multi-year perspective. This will also facilitate its work to be aligned with the 7th National Development Plan and the GRZ-UN Sustainable Development Partnership Framework, thus supporting Zambia in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
The main purpose of the today’s and tomorrow’s consultations is to discuss the challenges and brainstorm on potential solutions to the seven most pressing issues which refugees in Zambia face today, namely:
The Ratification and domestication of international and regional instruments;
Access to territory and asylum;
Registration and civil documentation;
Security from violence and exploitation;
Protection of children and youths;
Community mobilization and outreach;
And lastly, comprehensive durable solutions.
The Government and the people of Zambia have generously responded to the plight of refugees and many other thousands of refugees before them, offering international protection, safety and the opportunity to continue to build their lives in peaceful coexistence with Zambians. Traditional leaders have especially shown solidarity, generosity and hospitality, something I am most grateful for. It is now our time and collective responsibility to support the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees, the Department of Resettlement and other key line ministries and Government Departments which are providing services in the communities that have over more than five decades welcomed refugees.
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my hope that upon culmination of these discussions, we will all find our place and identify areas in which we can improve the lives of refugees and Zambians.