The 2021 regional NGO consultations for Southern Africa, on the theme of ‘localization of humanitarian action and engagement with communities in the COVID-19 context’, brought together UNHCR, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), international and national NGOs, civil society and refugee-led organizations from across Southern Africa. The event was an opportunity for participants to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned, and to constructively discuss opportunities and challenges in the region.
The event was held over three half-days between 1 and 3 September, in a virtual format due to the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was attended by people in 28 countries, from Southern Africa and worldwide. Daily sessions covered three sub-themes in depth, with speakers from UNHCR, ICVA, NGOs, refugee-led organizations, women-led organizations and community-based organizations.
Proceedings were opened by Mr. Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, and Mr. Marco Rotelli, ICVA’s Regional Director for Africa. Mr Tapsoba spoke about the growing importance of effective, inclusive partnerships and ways of working in the face of the unprecedented challenges of climate change and COVID-19 and their impact on the ever-increasing number of people forced to flee their homes in Southern Africa and worldwide. Mr. Rotelli’s opening remarks positioned the event as a catalyst within an ongoing process of improvement. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Emmanuel Taban, a leading pulmonologist in South Africa, and former refugee. Dr. Taban spoke about his long journey on foot from South Sudan to South Africa and the supportive role played by NGOs on the way, ending with a call to reinforce the whole of society approach in responding to humanitarian emergencies, which laid the tone for proceedings. At the close of the event, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Mr. Raouf Mazou, gave concluding remarks and reflections on the way forward, highlighting the importance of sharing responsibility, and working harmoniously together. Mr. Mazou underlined UNHCR’s commitment to turning recommendations into reality, and outlined the next steps UNHCR would take in advancing the process. Mr. Rotelli closed the event with a reflection on the increasing diversity of partnerships and inclusive ways of working, highlighting the importance of consolidating the localization of action and engaging communities meaningfully and sustainably.