Shoulder to Shoulder with Refugees
17 July 2017

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (middle) addressing the summit's delegates together with Uganda`s president Y.K. Museveni and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (Uganda Presidential Press Unit)
“The international solidarity with Uganda is not a question of generosity but a question of justice” By Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

Hindiyo was eight years old when she came to Uganda. Her family left home suddenly. She did not even realize that she was in another country. She dreams of a peaceful return home to Somalia one day. "I do not want to be a refugee forever. I want to visit Uganda and other countries as a guest. I want to receive Ugandans in my home country, Somalia. That is my dream. I would invite my Ugandan friends to enjoy our beautiful country," she says.

Hindiyo Abdulkadir was the representative of refugees on the second day of the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees which took place from 22nd to 23rd of June in Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda. The President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri K. Museveni, and the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, had invited Heads of States or Governments, International Organizations, Non-Government Organizations and the private sector to attend the Summit – around 500 stakeholders were convened.

Different activities were organized for the first day of the Summit. These included field visits to the three refugee hosting districts and settlement areas, namely, Arua, Adjumani and Mbarara. There were also visits to the urban refugee communities in Kampala. In parallel to the summit, different other events were organized around themes such as education, youth, women and girls. The summit was also an occasion for high level policy dialogue on issue related to refugees.

Hindiyo, refugee representative from Somalia at the Uganda Solidarity Summit held 22-23 June 2017

Hindiyo was only eight years old when she fled from Somalia with her family and found refugee in Uganda. She was the refugee representative at the Uganda Solidarity Summit (Uganda Presidential Press Unit)

 Uganda is experiencing the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, with over 1.2 million refugees and a huge economic and social impact. It now ranks third among the top refugee-hosting nations in the world after Turkey and Pakistan and it is Africa’s leading refugee-hosting nation, with refugees from 13 countries including Burundi, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. During the second half of 2016 a mass exodus of refugees from South Sudan roughly doubled the population. The current average influx rate stands at about 2,000 refugees per day, 80% of whom are women and children. “It should be pointed out that the number may increase at an even faster and greater rate if the causes of flight are not addressed at the earliest opportunity”, stated Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda.

Uganda has one of the most generous and progressive refugee policy in the world, including opening its territory to refugees irrespective of nationality or ethnic affiliation and granting them freedom of movement, land for each refugee to settle and cultivate, the right to seek employment or start a business, access to public services such as health, education and documentation. All this is illustrative of Uganda’s Open Door policy with respect to refugees.

Nevertheless the high and growing number of refugees and their protection and assistance requirements are putting extraordinary pressures on a country that is grappling with immense needs of its own citizens. In the face of underfunding, the United Nations and partners are providing only basic life-saving support. For example, the Ugandan chapter of the South Sudan 2017 Response Plan is only funded by 17%. Notwithstanding the pressures, Uganda continues to live up to its international obligations towards refugees. Uganda requires urgent and robust support to deal with the refugee crisis humanely and sustainably until durable solutions are found for women, men and children who currently need its protection.

The Summit presented an opportunity for the international community to stand shoulder to shoulder with Uganda to provide the necessary support to the women, girls, boys and men that have fled their homes and countries, as well as to the communities that generously host them. It is estimated that a comprehensive multi-year refugee response in Uganda will require USD 8 billion for 2017 through to 2020, incorporating short-term emergency and humanitarian interventions as well as long-term resilience programming. Those requirements represent essential building blocks for sustainable peace and security. Uganda is a beacon of hope and, if well supported, can become a model for how sustainable and inclusive investments in social services and in human capital development, among refugees and the communities that host them, can help break the cycle of conflict and build peaceful communities, both in host countries and in countries of origin as and when refugees are able to return in safety and dignity. In the end, the Summit mobilised USD 352.6 million, which, while not being enough, is a good start.

“The international solidarity with Uganda is not a question of generosity but a question of justice”, UN General Secretary Guterres pointed out in his speech in Kampala. He went on with an exhortation to say no, not to refugees, but to the wars that create them.

Antonio Guterres’ last statement could not be more relevant today. While it was certainly necessary to show the international community how critical the refugee situation in Uganda is, there will be no change as long as various governments continue to support wars around the world.

By Christina Zetlmeisl,
Programs officer, JRS Uganda

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