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Third AUC-NANHRI Policy Forum on the State of African National Human Rights Institutions

Introductory remarks by Ambassador Morten Aasland at the third African Union Commission and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions Forum, 5. September 2019


First of all – I would like to thank African Union Commission and the Network of African National Human Rights institutions (NANHRI) for providing all of us with a forum to reflect on tackling the challenges of and achieving durable solutions for forced displacement on the continent.

Norway would like to begin by extending its particular appreciation to the African countries that are applying the principles of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The experiences from the roll-out of the CRRF will be important as we hopefully move further toward a fair responsibility-sharing in refugee response.

Dealing with the challenges of forced displacement is a shared priority. Our joint response to situations of forced displacement can be made more strategic and long-term in order to facilitate durable solutions.  Short-term interventions alone are insufficient because most forced displacement situations are protracted. On average, a person is a refugee for over 15 years.

The measures taken to increase refugees’ access to education, health, greater freedom of movement and possibility for livelihoods, hold the potential both for self-reliance of the refugees and increased sustainability for the local economies.

Education for refugee children and youth is an important example. Education remains underfunded in humanitarian crises. Many donors give priority to more short-term needs in their humanitarian budgets. However, in a protracted refugee situation, children and young people need more than just food and water; they need the tools to be able to manage and thrive on their own. Norway gives priority to education in crises and conflict.

I would also like to emphasise the need for focusing on Protection of refugees, not only assistance. While basic needs, such as food and shelter, are obviously necessary in humanitarian response, refugees cannot be safe without certain protection measures such as legal stay permits and protection from physical violence or sexual abuse. This is absolutely necessary to ensure that refugees alike are given a fair chance to gain resilience and be active and contributing members of society and the economy, both for the host country and their country of origin. In this regard, UNHCR is the key partner in the UN system, with its mandate and as global cluster lead on protection.

The gender perspective is also central in strategies for durable solutions to displacement. Women are often more marginalized than men in displacement situations; more exposed to sexual abuse and violence; less likely to be part of the decision making processes. Mainstreaming alone is not sufficient to deal with these challenges. We need targeted interventions assisting, protecting and empowering women.

Finally, let me say a few words about internally displaced persons. There are over 40 million internally displaced persons as a result of conflict in the world. Africa hosts over a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons and over 14 million internally displaced people.  This is more than twice the number of refugees on the continent. Although there can be made legal distinctions between refugees and internally displaced people, the reality is that these are often the same people, with the same needs for protection and assistance. Today’s IDPs are often tomorrow’s refugees, and may become IDPs again upon return to their countries of origin. It is therefore paramount a long term development perspective is applied in all out efforts towards addressing the root causes of forced displacement.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has committed to ‘leaving no-one behind’. This cannot be done without scaling up efforts to improve protection and assistance for internally displaced persons. Now that we have a Global Compact on Refugees, it is time also to look at how response to situations of internal displacement can be made more strategic, long-term, facilitate durable solutions, and thereby reduce internal displacement.

Along with many IDP-affected African countries, Norway has encouraged the UN Secretary-General to establish a High-Level panel for internal displacement. The ambition is to raise awareness among states, increase international support, and identify long-term strategies for assistance.

International refugee response, is a central priority in Norway’s humanitarian strategy. Norway will continue to provide support in the form of resettlement places, and humanitarian and development assistance, to refugees and their hosts in African countries.

I thank you once again for facilitating this forum and I look forward to the interesting discussions ahead.