With 24.2 million Africans forced from their homes in 2017 ̶ 4.6 million more than the previous year ̶ the UN is hosting a three-day event at UN headquarters, focusing on finding durable solutions to the problem, which is a growing burden on the continent’s economy, environment and communities which host those displaced.
The 2019 Africa Dialogue Series, (ADS) which began on Monday under the theme “Towards durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons in Africa,” brings together a wide range of actors with a stake in finding ways to deal with the issue, including representatives of national governments, the African Union, civil society, the private sector and the United Nations.
Speaking at the opening session, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, commended the contribution African countries are making to strengthen multilateralism.
Ms. Espinosa said that she resolved to make Africa the focus of her activities at the outset of her GA Presidency, adding that she believes Africa’s contribution to the UN is under-appreciated, and that the region’s voice remains under-represented in the international system.
Ms. Espinosa stressed that African leadership “time and time again, has led the way, be it through expanding the definition of ‘refugee’ in 1969, or through the Kampala Convention, the first legally-binding framework to address internal displacement, which was adopted in 2009.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said that by building strong coalitions of stakeholders, the series was an important element in the effort to boost international cooperation. With regard to the 2019 ADS theme, the UN chief paid tribute to the solidarity and hospitality of African countries, many of whom continue to set the global standard:
“Countries like Uganda, Djibouti, Rwanda and Ethiopia are taking innovative action to recognize and promote the rights of refugees. And African countries played a key role in securing the approval of the Global Compact on Refugees last year,” he said.
Mr. Guterres urged delegates to “consider the issue of displacement in the broadest context, in your search for sustainable and durable solutions,” taking into consideration international issues such as the global emergency of climate change, financing for development and universal health coverage.
Deputy Secretary-General and former Nigerian Government minister, Amina Mohammed, told delegates: “You can count on the United Nations to be a strong partner for Africa…ensuring the involvement of youth as agents of change in all conflict resolution and political processes.”
She praised the recent Joint UN-African Union (AU) Frameworks on Peace and Security and Sustainable Development, noting they would “contribute to strengthening our shared efforts to promote inclusive sustainable development and tackle many of the drivers of conflict and forced displacement.”
Ms. Mohammed called for all to “pledge today to keep working together to transform the narrative and transform the future for Africa, its young people and our world.”