How can the International Community Improve its Global Refugee Response?

Gambella Jewi Camp
Gambella, Jewi Refugee Camp Photo: RNE

In September 2016 the UN General Assembly declared the need for a more comprehensive response to refugees, recognising the needs of refugees and host communities. The resulting Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) is now being implemented, and Ethiopia is at the forefront of this change. 3 May, Norway’s Ambassador to Ethiopia HE Andreas Gaarder participated at the CRRF regional launch in Gambella.

Read his speech here:

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today in Gambella to take part in this important regional launch of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.

Norway supports Ethiopia’s implementation of the new global framework.

Positive results on the ground is most important: the Government of Ethiopia deserves credit for thanking the lead in shaping the future of international refugee response.

This leadership is in keeping with a strong tradition following from when followers of Prophet Mohammed being persecuted on the Arab peninsula asked for asylum in the Axemite Empire. The Negus generously accepted their request.

Today, Ethiopia’s open door policy towards refugees from its neighbouring countries is an important contribution to regional stability and helps relieve a difficult humanitarian situation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

When in September 2016 the UN General Assembly met in New York and declared the need for a much more ‘comprehensive response’ - recognizing the needs of refugees and host communities - Norway was a keen supporter.

Similarly, a day later in New York, at the Leaders Summit - co-chaired by both the leaders of the United States and Ethiopia – 47 member states made significant pledges towards supporting the spirit of the NY Declaration – including 17 Member States with significant refugee populations that pledged to enact policy changes that will allow one million more refugee children to attend school and one million additional refugees to pursue lawful employment and livelihood activities. 

Ethiopia – in its prominent role as co-chair of this Summit - stood out.  It made its significant nine (9) pledges – that are central in our discussions today.  AND, importantly Ethiopia demonstrated its role as a global leader in this regard.

The nine pledges made at the Obama summit for refugees are at the core of making Ethiopia a pilot country for the CRRF. I am very happy to see that through the CRRF launch in the affected regions the pledges made in 2016 will now be implemented on the ground in a comprehensive manner. The pledges will be implemented in the spirit of the SDGs, and the principle of “leaving no one behind.”

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In a humanitarian context, saving lives is what is most important. But, it is also crucial to include refugees in the communities from the very beginning. If we enable refugees to gain access to education and the labor markets, they can build skills and become self-reliant. Integrating refugees into the national development is crucial both for the refugees themselves, but also to the host community. 

Appropriate consultative mechanisms must be put in place to make this process sustainable. The challenge of delivering on the pledges should not be underestimated. It is visionary to spearhead such a development and the international community’s support will be core to the success.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Norway is a steady supporter of both humanitarian refugee operations and national development efforts.

Through this engagement, Norway has come to recognise that things need to be done differently. There needs to be a merging of the so-called Humanitarian and Development philosophies and practice. It is not acceptable to create dependency in the name of saving lives.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Gambella is the most affected region in Ethiopia. I am impressed by how federal and regional authorities are dealing with this major challenge.

Norway supports humanitarian relief efforts in Gambella through our partners on the ground, including NRC and NCA.

Yesterday, I visited the Ngunyyiel camp with the Norwegian State Minister for International Development. We saw how Norway, the UNHCR, UNICEF and ARRA cooperate in order to secure education, shelter and health services for the refugees from South Sudan.

Keeping people in refugee camps for more than a couple of years is not what we should be working towards.  In Ethiopia, however, some camps span nearly three decades. 

The question is how we make our engagement more sustainable. Ethiopia’s commitment to the CRRF is contributing to this.

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Norway has made education a top priority because it is both a human right and a prerequisite for development.

Over the past four years, Norway has doubled its financial aid for education. Globally, we allocate more than 8 % of our humanitarian funding to education. Norway supports education initiatives in refugee camps in Shire and we just committed to a similar project in Gambella. However, one size does not fit all. The story in Shire is completely different from the story in Gambella. 

The education projects are examples of the humanitarian – development nexus. When the South Sudanese children and youth that are living in the refugee camps today return to South Sudan in the future, they are the ones that will be building the country.

It is a top priority for Norway to encourage more countries to contribute to international responsibility sharing in regard to refugees. Host countries are shouldering a tremendous responsibility.

The Government of Ethiopia is now a champion of change – the required change that we must all make.