Hosted by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), and organized by the IPU in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the African Regional Parliamentary Conference on Comprehensive Responses to Refugee Situations – Effective Parliamentary Approaches, took place from 11 to 13 November 2019 in Midrand, South Africa.
The Regional Conference follows the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees, adopted in December 2018 after two years of extensive consultations led by UNHCR, and was held in the context of the African Union's theme for 2019: The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa. The gathering provided a platform for African members of Parliament and stakeholders working on the development and implementation of comprehensive responses related to refugees and affected host populations, to examine the issue of refugees from every angle.
“The PAP is pleased to host this important conference organized by the IPU, in cooperation with UNHCR, as it will enable African legislators to learn and share experiences with global stakeholders in the process of finding durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa. We are adamant that as Parliamentarians, we need to constantly build our capacity in order to respond adequately to the issues facing our people. Therefore, this event comes at an opportune time and we hope to reflect and come up with a comprehensive framework to refugee problems across the continent,” said Nkodo Dang, President of the PAP.
“Over 70 million people are displaced globally due to conflict and natural disasters. Behind these numbers are human beings who have been forced to leave their homes and find themselves in situations of extreme vulnerability,” said Gabriela Cuevas, IPU President. “We, as representatives of the people, are uniquely placed to listen to the people we represent and to ensure that all voices are heard and taken into account- including those of refugees and stateless persons.”
“Parliamentarians have the power to establish a legislative framework, allocate resources and hold governments accountable to ensure that refugees worldwide receive the protection and assistance they need,” said Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, “Parliamentarians can also help change the narrative from viewing refugees not just as people in need of assistance but as agents of change who can contribute greatly to the countries in which they live. This is why this conference is so important so that parliamentarians from the region can exchange ideas and best practice in order to turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity.”
In the outcome document of the conference, the parliamentarians recalled that Africa is the continent most affected by refugee flows and forced displacement, hosting some 26.4 million displaced persons. They committed to never forget that refugees are first and foremost human beings whose lives are turned upside down and who have left behind everything. The MPs also stressed that more than 80 per cent of those fleeing their countries as refugees find protection in neighbouring countries who are, in turn, often struggling to manage their own development with limited resources and the impact of neighbouring conflicts; and that solutions must therefore address both refugees and the countries and communities that host them.
The IPU began working on international humanitarian law and refugee protection issues over twenty years ago through the work of its Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law. The Committee raises awareness of the treatment of refugees and internally displaced people at the parliamentary level as well as ensuring that international agreements on refugees are implemented at the national level through parliament. The Committee was represented at the conference by its new chair, Ágnes Vadai, an MP from Hungary, and its African regional members.
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