TIMELY! Uganda joins High-Level Officials Meeting amid record number of refugees in the country

Acting Commissioner for Refugees, Douglas Asiimwe is also part of the delegation

BY VENENSCIAS KIIZA

Uganda will virtually participate today, Tuesday 14th, and tomorrow, 15th December in the High-Level Officials Meeting (HLOM), a forum organized by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and held every four years to take stock of progress in achieving the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.

The meeting will feature discussions on ways of expanding support for refugees and the countries that receive and host them, advancing implementation of the pledges announced at the first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in 2019, and identifying areas in need of further support.

Participants include international organizations, humanitarian and development actors, international and regional financial institutions, host community members, and refugees among many others. Uganda’s delegation in the discussions will be led by the Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun. The Acting Commissioner for Refugees, Douglas Asiimwe will also participate in the meeting.

“We have come a long way in advancing an inclusive and accountable refugee response, despite the recent challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Minister Anyakun.

“But the journey is not over. As the number and needs of refugees are on the rise, Uganda calls on the international community to rise up to its responsibility by supporting refugees and communities that host them to sustain our progressive refugee model,” she added.

Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun will lead Uganda delegation

With over 1.56 million refugees on its soil, Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the fifth globally, after Turkey, Colombia, Germany and Pakistan. In the last three years, Uganda has taken concrete steps to fulfil all of the six pledges made at the GRF, maintaining an open-door refugee policy (pledge 2), including refugees in national development plans and statistics (pledge 2), promoting inclusion of refugee and host communities in the national education system (pledge 3) and health services (pledge 4), fostering sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems (pledge 5), and ensuring integrity of the asylum system (pledge 6).

Through the new National Development Plan III (2020-2024), Uganda clearly articulated the need to include refugees in national, sectoral and local development plans. Under the leadership of relevant line ministries and with the support from UNHCR, partners and donors, the government launched four sector plans to improve delivery of social services for refugees and local communities in refugee hosting districts, namely Education, Health, Water and Environment, and Jobs and Livelihoods.

A fifth plan on Sustainable Energy is underway. The HLOM will also review efforts made by donors to mobilize additional resources and help ease pressures on countries hosting large numbers of refugees. It is estimated that over the past three years more than US $2.5 billion have been invested in Uganda’s refugee-hosting districts to improve service delivery and infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospital and water systems.

This includes about US $1billion provided by development partners such as Belgium, Denmark, European Union, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America and the World Bank – as well as about US $170.7 million that governments and the private sector explicitly pledged during the GRF. In the same period, the Government of Uganda and host communities have continued to provide land for settlement of refugees and share with them social services such as health, water, and education.

“The operationalization of the Global Compact has been a game changer for the Uganda refugee response, providing practical entry points for additional investments, especially along the humanitarian-development nexus,” said Joel

Boutroue, UNHCR Representative to Uganda.

“I wish to thank Uganda and its people for the exemplary show of hospitality and solidarity with refugees, crisis after crisis, and I count on the international community to do its part and share more responsibility with Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country.”

Even with these contributions from the international community and donors, the refugee response in Uganda remains severely underfunded, with only US $350.9 million received so far in 2021 against financial requirements of US $767 million (46 per cent). In the lead up to the HLOM, the East African country took part in three of five virtual roundtables on the GCR indicator report, Partnerships and Solutions to help inform the global discussions.

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