By Jessica A Badebye
World leaders have converged in Uganda for the first ever “Refugee Solidarity Summit” co-hosted by President Yoweri Museveni and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Kampala this week. The conference is aimed at putting the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants commitments which were adopted by the United Nations into action. The “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants” which was adopted on 19th September 2016, expresses the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.
World leaders committed themselves to implement strategies to assist refugees and migrants, those who assist them as well as their host countries and communities. Some of the commitments made include protection of the human rights of all refugees and migrants regardless of status, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, working towards ending the practice of detaining children for the purposes of determining their migration status and strengthening the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries. Supporting countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants, is another commitment made by world leaders. It is on this strength that the solidarity conference seeks to raise $2 billion for Uganda, now the third largest refugee hosting country globally after Turkey. According to information from United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the government of Uganda and the United Nations spent $150 million each to cater for the refugees in 2016, an amount highly rated inadequate.
The Ugandan government will also use the opportunity to showcase its celebrated refugee model. In Uganda, refugees are allocated plots to settle on rather than being housed in temporary tented camps. In addition the Ugandan government affords them the same protection, access to services, employment and rights its own citizens enjoy. However, they are barred from getting involved in politics. It is widely believed that this has made the country an attractive destination for those living in neighboring countries fleeing famine and war. Uganda is host to more than 1.3 million refugees who crossed into Uganda from South Sudan since the start of the conflict in the world’s youngest nation in December 2013 , with a daily average of 2000 refugees. The host communities are in 12 districts including Adjumani, Arua, Kampala, Nakivale and Mbarara. According to information from UNHCR, 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from their homes. Among them are 22.5 million refugees and 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
The conference brought together heads of state including Guinean President also African Union chairman Alpha Conde, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Gabonese President Ali Bongo, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and about 500 dignitaries. It is hoped that the conference will mobilize political support for the full application of a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in Uganda, come up with significant new funding towards refugee response plans and resilience initiatives and to form new partnerships, investments and innovation in refugee-hosting districts.