Open Session on the Plight of Refugees, IDPs and Forced Displacement in Africa

Displacement, Migration and Peace & Security

Date | 08 June, 2021

Tomorrow (08 June) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1002nd session. This virtual open session will be held under the theme ‘plight of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and forced displacement in Africa’. Convened as one of the regular thematic agenda of the PSC, this session comes ahead of the commemoration of the World Refugee Day, which is observed on 20 June under the theme ‘Together we heal, learn and shine’.

Following the opening remark from the PSC Chairperson of the month, Burundi’s Permanent Representative to the AU, Joel Nkurbagaya, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, will make a statement. As a subject that also relates to her portfolio, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Amira Elfadil Mohammed Elfadil, is also expected to brief the PSC. Pursuant to the practice of the PSC, the PSC will also receive briefings from representatives of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP). The chairperson of the Permanent Representatives Committee Sub- Committee on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons is also expected to deliver a statement.

Tomorrow’s session is expected to discuss recent trends about forced displacement leading to the persistence and increase in the scale of IDPs and flow of refugees. With a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons in Africa, including 7.8 million refugees and asylum-seekers and 19.2 million IDPs, Africa continues to experience alarming trends of displacement. While natural disasters continue to induce forced displacement on the continent, much of the displacements on the continent are due to violence and conflicts.

With more than 21 million forcibly displaced by violence, Africa has experienced the highest number of conflict related displacement in record in 2020. This is on account of both the persistence of existing conflicts, and in some cases, their further deterioration in regions affected by violence and the eruption of new conflicts in previously less affected regions. It is worth noting that the conflict trends leading to forced displacement on the continent include political and electoral violence in politically tense and conflict affected countries, upsurge of violence, including inter-communal violence in countries with protracted conflicts, and the spike in terrorist violence in particular the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel, Horn of Africa and Northern Mozambique.

All parts of the continent are affected by conflict related displacement, although with notable variations of intensity. In East Africa alone, existing and new conflicts have resulted in 8.3 million IDPs and 4.6 million refugees. In West Africa and the Sahel, over 2.9 million people are displaced due to the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region. The rate of internal displacement has particularly been most alarming in Burkina Faso, where by 2021, more than 1 million people have been internally displaced, showing a four-fold increase from the previous year. In the Lake Chad Basin, over 3.2 million people were reported to have been forcefully displaced by the end of 2020. In Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where over 2 million people are already displaced due to widespread violence, was most recently hit by a volcanic eruption which is estimated to displace about 400,000 people. The relatively recent conflict in Mozambique has also resulted in a serious displacement crisis, with the number of displaced people getting to the one million mark. In North Africa, apart from being host to one of the most protracted refugee situation in Tindouf, Algeria, the intensification of the conflict in Libya displaced about 40,000 people in 2020.

Apart from the foregoing, tomorrow’s session is also expected to examine the humanitarian situation of IDPs and refugees and asylum seekers. Of particular concern in this respect is the rise in food insecurity in Africa over the past couple of years. Coupled with on-going and new conflicts, food insecurity is feared to produce dramatic upsurge of displacement. On top of creating new wave of displacement, the existing food insecurity also directly impacts displaced populations already living under dire circumstances. Such is, particularly the case, in regions with pre- existing conditions of food insecurity.

In addition to food insecurity and climate induced displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic has also highly compounded the humanitarian situation of refugee and IDPs across Africa. The inevitable interruption to humanitarian aid in some cases has imposed a major challenge to displaced communities whose survival depends on the timely delivery of assistance. Due to the COVID-19 response measures, there has also been significant drop in opportunities for resettlement.

In discussing the plight of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers, the first issue of concern is ensuring the protection of these category of people. In this respect, it is of paramount importance that conflict actors observe human rights and international humanitarian law rules as well as the principles of OAU Refugee Convention and the Kampala Convention on IDPS including on the imperative for respecting non-refoulement and voluntary return, hence desisting from forced return of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers, as noted by the PSC at its 904th session. It is also of significance that the physical security of IDPs and refugees and asylum seekers is guaranteed and conflict parties, particularly State actors, bear responsibility for creating conditions for ensuring such security. Also of particular importance is the provision of unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian actors to enable affected people to be provided with humanitarian assistance.

The second issue relate to finding durable solutions to forced displacement. It is of paramount importance in this respect that effective peace making and conflict resolution efforts are deployed. Durable solutions necessitate the resolution of the weak presence of state institutions and public services in conflict affected territories, absence of good governance and democratic inclusion and the perpetration of human rights violations. As conditions of insecurity improve, mechanisms should be created for the safe and voluntary return of IDPs and refugees. There is also a need for designing and implementing programs for the rehabilitation of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers.

Another area of interest in tomorrow’s session is the role and contribution of the AU towards addressing the plight of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers. In this respect, the PSC may receive update on the progress towards the operationalization of the African Humanitarian Agency (AHA), which, as noted by the PSC at its 921st session, contribute towards efforts being made to address the humanitarian challenges. Tomorrow’s session may also consider how to activate the role of the Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) that was endorsed by Assembly/AU/Dec.417(XIX). In this respect, one challenge that may receive attention is the treaty on the establishment of the ARC is yet to enter into force since it hasn’t acquired the required level of ratification.

Additionally, the PSC may also review AU’s challenges in financing humanitarian assistance and reiterate its previous call on member States to commit to the implementation of EX.CL/Dec.567(XVII) which decided to increase member States’ contribution to the ‘Refugees and IDPs Fund’ from 2% to 4%. This challenge also relates to the Special Emergency Assistance Fund (SEAF) for Draught and Famine Relief in Africa which can play supportive role for some of the peoples on the continent facing food insecurity. The PSC may also call on the international community to sustain its support for humanitarian assistance, which is the only avenue for sustaining the lives of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers.

The session also presents an opportunity for horizontal coordination. In this respect, the engagement in tomorrow’s session of the Sub- Committee on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, which plays a significant role in providing policy recommendations and solutions with respect to such population groups, is of importance.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. The PSC is expected to request the AU Commission to work on the issue of food insecurity among displaced persons, in collaboration with WFP, UNHCR, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other relevant partners. Council may also call on member States to contribute to and replenish the SEAF. In that spirit, Council may encourage member States to participate at the upcoming Continental Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference which is expected to take place in Equatorial Guinea, during November this year. The AU Commission may also be requested to expedite operationalisation of the AHA. PSC may reiterate the request it made at its 921st session, for the AU Commission to mobilise support for member States hosting high number of refugees, IDPs and undocumented migrants and to ensure that part of the AU COVID-19 response fund goes towards provision of humanitarian assistance for these groups of people. It may also urge member States to discharge their responsibilities in ensuring the creation of conditions for the protection of the physical security of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers and for unhindered humanitarian access. The PSC is also expected to call for enhancing efforts in addressing the root-causes of violent conflicts. The PSC may also reiterate the need for host states to ensure utmost respect for non-refoulement and voluntary return, hence desisting from forced return of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers.

Briefing on the situation of IDPs, refugees and returnees in the COVID19 crisis

Displacement, Migration and Peace & Security

Date | 28 April, 2020

Tomorrow (28 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a briefing on the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Refugees and Returnees during the novel coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic. The meeting is expected to take place through VTC, making this the third PSC meeting to take place via VTC since the introduction of the new formats in early April.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Minata Samate Cessouma is expected to brief the Council.

The briefing by the Commissioner is expected to shed light on both the scale of Africa’s share of IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons and the impact of COVID19 on these categories of people in Africa. As highlighted in the briefing note that Cessouma shared with the PSC, there are more than 17 million IDPs, more than 7 million refugees and asylum seekers and about 72,000 stateless persons in the Africa.

Generally, IDPS, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are found in highly congested spaces such as IDP or refugee camps, which generally lack water and sanitation services. The recommended public health measures including social distancing, self-isolation, washing hands and sanitization of shared spaces are nearly impossible to implement in such spaces. Thus, it is particularly challenging to contain the spread of the virus in such congested IDP and refugee camps lacking space and access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Moreover, such population groups may also suffer from low level of immunity due to pre-existing conditions, hardships of displacement and malnutrition.

Another factor that makes the effort to prevent the spread of COVID19 among IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is the fact that the majority of these population groups are in areas affected by conflict and violence. These in particular include the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin regions, the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and parts of North Africa. According to the latest UN Secretary General report on West Africa and the Sahel there are about 10 million people in need of assistance in the Lake Chad basin and more than 2.5 million IDPs across the countries in the region. Even without COVID19 some of these places including the Sahel and Libya have become highly unsafe for these categories of people. In early April UNHCR has reported the attacks on around 25,000 Malian refugees, residing in camps near the border of Burkina Faso and Mali amid the COVID19 pandemic.

The compounded effects of the health emergency, violence and attacks on displaced communities as well as health facilities will be catastrophic and long lasting. An important aspect of the effort to protect IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is therefore to ensure that some degree of cessation of hostilities is observed and health care facilities and humanitarian actors are protected from attacks.

There is also the issue of access to information, which is a key pillar of the policy response to contain COVID19 that enables individuals and communities to find ways of implementing such precautionary measures feasible for their conditions. The provision of public health awareness measures among IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is also another area of interest for the PSC and its members.

Various factors including the weak capacities of the health systems of host countries in the continent, the huge resource requirements of the COVID19 response measures and the pressure of the public emergency mean that the response measures that member states of the AU mobilize generally focus on their citizens. The preparedness and response plans of states may not be tailored to cater for and spare limited capacities and resources for IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are thus at greater risk of being marginalized and unprotected.

Tomorrow’s session would thus be critical to draw attention to the vulnerability of these group of people and the imperative for mobilizing efforts for enhanced sanitation and hygiene services as well as overall prevention measures.

The Horn region is another conflict hotspot that may need particular attention by the PSC. The IGAD Extraordinary Summit held virtually on 3o March agreed to develop a regional response strategy, which also incorporates the protection of populations and special groups that experience challenges accessing the national health systems such as IDPs, refugees and migrants. It is essential that such initiatives at the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) level informs continental strategy and efforts and vice versa. The coordination and policy harmonization at national, regional and continental level is critical to effectively respond to the pandemic.

IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants will also be affected on account of the adverse impact of the disruption that COVID19 causes to humanitarian assistance. The limitation on movement have a direct effect on the delivery of aid and lifesaving assistance to communities that need it the most. Displaced population have urgent and continuous needs and any disruption of services to respond such needs poses an existential threat. The closure of borders and bans on international travel has also affected resettlement programs of refugees. The PSC may also consider how current measures taken by governments to contain the spread, including declaration of state of emergency, lockdowns and border closure may affect the safety of IDPs, refugees and returnees and their ability access information and assistance.

The PSC during its 918 session has stressed the need for protection and assistance of IDPs and refugees in camps and for stakeholders to scale up efforts on detection, testing and contact tracing as well as provision of assistance. Similarly, the Bureau of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government has also called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors to support vulnerable groups including refugees and IDPs in the context of current crisis.

A very concerning development that has emerged during this period is the mass deportation of asylum seekers and migrants, which could constitute breach of international human rights and refugee law norms. For example, at a time when capacities for quarantine and testing remains limited, it has been reported that thousands of Ethiopians have been deported from Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. The timing and conditions of deportation will further expose migrants to the virus and pose pressure and challenges to countries of origin, which are already overstretched in responding to the pandemic. Attacks on migrants or refugees on suspicion that they carry the virus such as the one that took place in China is also a major cause for concern.

The other expected effect is on the funding and resource allocation. Government’s capacity and that of the international partners is overstretched due to efforts channelled to address the health hazard and the socio-economic implications of COVID19. One of the concerns is that the response aimed at fighting COVID19 may reduce available resource for humanitarian action, which is already not meeting existing demand let alone the additional requirement for fighting COVID19 by humanitarian actors servicing IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

Currently, there are no reported cases in IDPs or refugee camps in Africa. However, this may also be due to the limited capacity of many governments to undertake testing at a large scale. There is thus a need for acting proactively and putting in place measures that ensure that the virus is not spread in such places and, in cooperation with humanitarian actors, mechanisms are established for detecting, isolating and treating COVID19 cases.

The expected outcome is a communiqué.

It is expected that the PSC will acknowledge the particular vulnerability of IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and the need for their protection. It could reiterate the outcome of its 918 session and urge host countries to ensure that their response measures also cater for the needs of these group of people, including most notably by putting in place a taskforce for coordinating with humanitarian actors and for mobilizing resources for implementing the public health response focusing on these group of people. The PSC may also reiterate the call of the AU Assembly Bureau for the establishment of humanitarian corridors to support vulnerable groups including refugees and IDPs in the context of current crisis and urge member states to ensure that their lockdown, curfews, state of emergency and border closure measures do not interfere with humanitarian access and assistance. The PSC may highlight the need and importance of implementing public health awareness services targeting in particular IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. To further buttress the efforts of national actors, the PSC may also call for contribution to the AU COVID19 Response Fund dedicated to the needs of these vulnerable population groups.

The PSC may also recall the call of the Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahammat and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres for cessation of hostilities and urge belligerents to comply with this call including most notably by avoiding fighting in areas where IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and refraining from attacking humanitarian actors and health facilities. It may call humanitarian actors and donor countries to ensure that resources mobilized for catering for IDPs, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are used for the lifesaving operations for which they are intended and additional resources are allocated for purposes of the COVID19 related needs of this population groups. It may urge countries to suspend the mass deportation of migrants and asylum seekers during this period in compliance with the human rights and refugee law principles and condemn the violence and attacks on refugees, IDPs and migrants including the attacks against African nationals that took place in China. It may also underscore the importance of the role of RECs/RMs including the initiative of IGAD and the need for coordination and policy coherence at the national, regional and continental levels.

Open session on refugee protection, migration and human rights in Africa

Displacement, Migration and Peace & Security

Date | 20 June, 2018

PSC Open Session on Refugee Protection, Migration and Human Rights in Africa

Tomorrow (20 June) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) will have an Open Session on Refugee Protection, Migration and Human Rights in Africa marking the Africa and World Refugee Day.

The session will receive a briefing from AU Department of Political Affairs on existing AU normative framework, initiatives and projects on migration, forced displacement and integration. Chair of the AU Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) Sub‐Committee on Refugees, Returnees and
Internally Displaced Persons will also make statement. Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the ICRC, Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), European Union and various embassies and members of the civil society working on migration, internally displaced people (IDPs) and statelessness will also be part of the session.

The focus of this year’s theme of the world refugee day is ‘the world we want: Inclusion, empowerment. And access to services for refugees’. In this respect, the session is expected to examine the current state of the crisis of IDPs, refugees, and migrants in Africa in respect to access to services. In terms of the Africa refugee day, which coincides with the world refugee day, it is an occasion for highlighting preparations for the 50th year anniversary of the 1969 OAU Convention for Refugees in 2019. The session is accordingly expected to hear about the emerging best practices and stories of African refugees in terms particularly of inclusion, empowerment and access to services.

As outlined in the concept note for the session, some of the key issues for deliberation include the scale and trend of the flow of refugees in Africa, the factors behind the trend and the challenges arising from the rise in the flow of refugees in Africa. The 2017 UNHCR statistics show that there are 6.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in Africa, hence overwhelming majority of African refugees are hosted in African countries. As the major African countries of origin of refugees identified in the concept note indicate (Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan), the vast majority of refugees in Africa are in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions, highlighting that much of the refugee flow is associated with regions witnessing high level of conflicts and violence.

These features of the refugee problem in Africa raise two crucial issues for discussion for tomorrow’s session.

First, there is a case to be made from the regional concentration of refugees (Horn of Africa and Great Lakes regions) for having architecture on the protection of refugees focusing particularly on these two regions. This can be a question of operationalization of the African Humanitarian Architecture focusing on the refugee crisis in these regions. Alternatively, it can be a question of initiating coordination and response mobilization platform bringing affected countries of the two regions.

Second, the close association of refugee flows and conflicts also raises questions about the necessity of factoring in the plight of refugees in conflict management and conflict resolution processes. In this respect, one issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of mechanism for integration into and consideration within the PSC processes of the work and input of the PRC Sub-Committee on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons and the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons.

Tomorrow’s session will take place against the backdrop of the July 2017 decision of the AU’s Executive Council declaring 2019 the Year of Refugees, Returnees and IDPs. Next year also marks ten years to the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa known as the Kampala Convention. The coming year will thus see a series of commemorative events aimed at raising the visibility of the issue of forced displacements in Africa. In the briefing from the DPA, the steps being taken to operationalize the African Humanitarian Architecture as per the relevant decision of the Executive Council, AU responses to the refugee crisis in Africa and the plans for the 2019 Year of Refugees, Returnees and IDPs is expected to receive attention. With respect to response to the refugee crisis, reference would be made to the various emerging best practices that host countries are implementing and also the challenges they are facing.

The chairperson of the PRC Subcommittee is expected to highlight the activities of the committee. This is expected to draw on the report that the sub-committee presents to the PRC. Among others, this is expected to draw attention to the various field missions that the Subcommittee undertook, most notably for purposes of the PSC, to countries in conflict. These include DRC, Nigeria and South Sudan.

With respect to migration, update would be provided on efforts for addressing the plight of migrants particularly in Libya and those crossing the Mediterranean Sea. As the 12 June statement of Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson suggest, one of the issues expected to draw particular attention is the risk that 600 refugees stranded in the Mediterranean Sea faced and the reluctance European countries showed to assist them. This incident also draws attention to the efforts for addressing the plight of migrants stranded in Libya including in terms of both their repatriation and their being held in illegal detention centers where they have been held captive and auctioned for slavery. In this regard, the PSC is expected to welcome the decision of the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on six individuals accused of leading smuggling and trafficking networks of migrants in Africa.

It is also anticipated that the ten-year AU Migration Policy Framework (MPFA) Plan of Action (2018 – 2027) will inform the part of the deliberation on migration. The framework envisions coherent management of migration and harmonization of the different continental documents and initiatives on migration and movement and displacement. In terms of issues affecting the response of the AU to issues of migration, Chairperson Mahamat’s January 2018 report on the activities of the AU and its organs noted the related challenges of speaking with one voice due to varying interests and priorities of various AU actors and inadequate resources for supporting continental common positions, and the resultant donor dependency.

While representatives of AU states participating in the session would highlight their respective experiences, best practices and challenges faced including in terms of inclusion, empowerment and access to service of refugees, many are also expected to highlight not only the need for mobilizing support for the humanitarian needs of refugees and IDPs but also the imperative of addressing the root causes of forced displacement including refugee flows. In this respect, the importance of the AU Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to be underscored. The promotion of regional integration, trade and human mobility and Africa Union’s border management mechanism will be discussed through the lens of migration, and as durable solutions to the crisis.
The expected outcome of the session is a statement. Various themes are expected to be addressed in the statement.

These include the role of conflicts in Africa in precipitating forced displacement including refugees, commendation of the efforts of host countries in providing protection for refugees and calling for continental and international support for these efforts and the challenges facing migrants particularly those in Libya and the need for assistance of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Other areas to be addressed include the need for establishing mechanism/approach within PSC processes for ensuring that issues of refugees and IDPs are systematically integrated in conflict management and resolution initiatives (such as through preparation of quarterly/biannually special reports focusing on this theme) and the possibility of an initiative for establishing regional coordination and response architecture for the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa as the regions with the most refugees.

African Free Movement of People

Displacement, Migration and Peace & Security

Date | 11 May, 2018

Session on free movement of people and migration crisis

Tomorrow (11 May) the PSC will hold its session on the African free movement of people and the migration crisis. This is now one of the themes that Rwanda champions within the AU system. It is to be recalled that in last year’s 21 July session on the same theme, on which today’s session builds, Rwanda addressed the PSC in its capacity as Chair of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) on Free Movement of People in Africa and Mitigating Security Impediments.

During this session, the PSC is expected to once again receive briefings from the CISSA. Additional briefings are expected from the Departments of Political Affairs and Peace and Security. Others expected to make statements include representatives of Regional Economic Communities /Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs). It is the third session of the PSC focusing on this theme during the past year and half.

This session comes on the heels of the successful extraordinary summit that was held on 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda during which the AU Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment was adopted. The briefing from the Department of Political Affairs, the AU Commission’s department that was responsible for the elaboration of the Protocol, would focus on sustaining the momentum on the signing of the Protocol and on addressing the concerns that member states, particularly those who did not sign the Protocol, have. Given the large number of member states (27) that signed the Protocol, discussions are expected to focus also on how to expand signature and accelerate its ratification. In this regard, the AU Commission is expected to provide updates to the PSC on its plans and strategy for promoting ratification.

During this session, member states are expected to share their experiences on the economic benefits of cross border movement of peoples, including for peace and security. In this respect the PSC is expected to commend member states who provide for a regime that allows issuance of visas for Africans on arrival. This session would also assess the status of implementation of the AU Assembly decision of July 2016 [Assembly/AU/Dec.607 (XXVII)]. In this respect, an issue of particular importance relates to the issuance of an African passport by member states and steps that should be taken to make progress.

Particular attention is also expected to be given on the security related challenges associated, in fact or perception, with free movement of peoples and how best these challenges would be addressed, including through enhanced security cooperation. This is an area that CISSA and the Department of Peace and Security are expected to provide analysis of the risks, potential or actual, which is often associated with free movement of people. It would also highlight the actions and processes that is required of member states, including the enhancement of their institutional and regulatory capacity to facilitate the free movement of people.

TThis session is also expected to underscore that free moment of persons is one of the crucial parts in efforts aimed at deepening continental integration as outlined in Agenda 2063. In sharing their experiences, RECs/RMs such as the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and the East African Community are expected to share regional best practices and mechanisms to address the security threats associated with free movement of people.

Another area expected to receive attention is the so-called the African migration crisis. Understandably, this would highlight not only the tragedy befalling African migrants as they travel within the continent across difficult terrains of the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea. But also it is expected to underscore the importance of the Protocol on the free movement of people for addressing the crisis as well.

AnotherThe expected outcome of the meeting is a press statement. It is anticipated that it would welcome the adoption of the Protocol on the Freedom of Movement and urge member states to ratify it. Importantly, the outcome of the session is expected to endorse and support initiatives notably those at the level of CISSA and the AU Commission to address the security concerns that continue to impede efforts of member states towards free movement of people. The PSC would also indicate how it plans to follow up on this agenda, although it is remains unclear if this theme would become a standing thematic agenda of the PSC.

Briefing on Durable Solutions to Internal Displacement in Africa

Displacement, Migration and Peace & Security

Date | 17 April, 2018

Tomorrow (18 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold a briefing session on ‘Durable Solutions to Internal Displacement in Africa: Humanitarian Action through the Incoming AU Humanitarian Agency’.

Commissioner for Political Affairs Cessouma Minata Samate and the independent consultant working on the operationalization of the AU African Humanitarian Agency (AHA) are expected to brief the PSC. The department of Peace and Security is also expected to make a statement.

The session was initiated by Nigeria as the chair of the month and it is taking place in line with the theme of the year on refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees and the commitment of finding durable solutions to forced displacement. The briefing is expected to shed light on humanitarian crisis and the ongoing efforts spearheaded by the AUC in strengthening humanitarian action.

According to the concept note developed by the AUC on theme of year ‘over a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons are in Africa, including 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 IDPs’. The compounded effects of conflicts, poor governance, human rights violations, environmental degradation and natural disasters have resulted in protracted displacement and prolonged humanitarian crisis.

The ‘Roundtable on Addressing Root Causes of Forced Displacement and Achieving Durable Solutions in Africa’ convened by AUC at the margins of the February 2019 Summit as part of the Project 2019 commemorative work highlighted that the major driver of forced displacement in Africa is conflict and addressing the structural drivers of conflict requires political commitment and preventive diplomacy. Addressing root causes of displacement also entails measures that must be put in place to facilitate all forms of durable solutions return, resettlement and local integration.

The AU has taken major policy strides in protecting and promoting the rights of displaced persons as well as in enhancing humanitarian action across the continent. One of the landmark instruments is the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs, also known as the Kampala Convention adopted in 2009 and it is currently ratified by 27 countries. The Convention is the only legally binding international instrument that specifically addresses the needs of IDPs. Moreover the AU Model Law for the implementation of the Convention was adopted at the AU Summit in January 2018 to promote the domestication and implementation of the continental instrument at national level. Although there isn’t any structured dedicated body or organ that is responsible to receive statutory and regular reporting, the Conference of State Parties to the Convention is mandated to serve as a platform to monitor its implementation. However since the adoption of the Convention in 2009 the Conference of State Parities was only able to meet once in April 2017.

Both the Kampala Convention and the Common African Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness including AHA are anchored on the fundamental premise of the primacy of state responsibility in providing protection and assistance to displaced population. The CAP itself is designed towards ‘strengthening the capabilities of the state to: predict, prevent, respond and adapt’. Within the framework of the primary responsibility of national authorities particularly within the context of responding to the needs of IDPs, it is duly recognized that humanitarian action needs to also reflect collective responsibility and burden-sharing extending to regional, continental and international actors.

In January 2016 the Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.604 (XXVI) adopted the Common African Position (CAP) on Humanitarian Effectiveness and through it the establishment of the African Humanitarian Agency (AHA). The Agency is one of the ten pillars of the CAP ‘dealing with forced displacement on the continent, giving effect to the objective of the centrality of the African States in humanitarian action on the continent’. This function is expected to complement global systems and national institutions for effective humanitarian action. To this end, the establishment of the agency was expected to play a critical role in fostering synergy and coordination among national, regional and continental bodies. Increasingly the role of the agency is also looking further into increasing AU’s operational presence in the field and to enhance humanitarian coordination.

It is to be recalled that at its 762ndsession the PSC has requested the AUC ‘to expedite the development of the modalities for the operationalization of the AHA and emphasized that the proposed mechanisms should outline the structural, financial and legal implications for consideration of the AU Decision-making Organs’. The Council has also underlined the need to ensure the genuine African ownership of the project, hence it has urged member states to urgently implement the decision EX.CL/Dec.567 (XVII) to increase AU humanitarian fund from 2% to 4% of Member States’ assessed contributions. The council has also highlighted its expectation to see the full operationalization of the agency by January 2019.

Hence the presentation by Cessouma Minata Samate is expected to provide an overview of the structural, financial and legal aspects of the establishment of the agency. The consultant is also expected to brief the PSC on the process and outcome of the feasibility study and consultations held with member states and partners with the aim of implementing the Assembly decision. Moreover the presentation may also shed light on the modalities and mandate of the agency and its objectives in mobilizing political solutions to address root causes, building national capacity, setting standards and supporting continental coordination while working with RECs and other stakeholders.

The briefing is expected to provide a platform for member states and AU stakeholders to exchange views, lessons learnt and experiences that will support the effective operationalization of the AHA. The PSC may also reiterate its previous request on the operationalization within reasonable time.

The other key issue that is expected to be discussed is around humanitarian financing to ensure effective African response to forced displacement and in operationalizing the AHA. The scale and magnitude of the problem of forced and protracted displacement requires significant contribution in financing initiatives. In addition to humanitarian assessed contribution, the 75 per cent of the revitalized Peace Fund will also be used to support mediation and preventive diplomacy which is expected to play a role in addressing roots causes and drivers of forced displacement by offering political solutions to conflicts in Africa.
The PSC may also be briefed on the broader activities that will be undertaken in 2019 in line with the theme of the year which can also contribute to the operationalization of the Agency. These may include efforts towards reinforcing ratification and domestication of legal instruments such as the Kampala Convention and the OAU Refugee Convention to ensure increased ownership of both instruments and to effectively respond towards forced displacement.

At the time of production of this insight the form that the outcome of the session takes was unknown.