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October 16, 2023 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in partnership with Sweden government and United Nation Higher Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) has held the Regional Review and validation workshop on the draft policy framework on refugee protection, under the theme of “towards a harmonized approach to refugee management and asylum in the IGAD region,” today, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Main objective of the three days’ Workshop is to provide Member States technical experts to review the updated draft, discuss its provisions, and validate the Policy framework and the Report on the Status of Refugee Management in the IGAD region.

Speaking on behalf of Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, Madam Fathia Alwan, Director for Health and Social Development at IGAD Secretariat, highlighted that as part of our responses, IGAD is honoured to present to you the Draft IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection in the IGAD region for validation.

“Our plan is to present this Policy Framework to our Ministers in-charge of refugees for endorsement during the upcoming Nairobi Stocktake meeting in November 2023 in Mogadishu.” Madam Fathia stated.

Moreover, she expressed that IGAD’s commitment to member states goes beyond the policy development. We strive to continue efforts to mobilize technical and financial support through the IGAD Support Platform towards a regional approach to the implementation of this policy and other forced displacement responses.

She also further emphasized that the IGAD seeks to build on the gains of the Nairobi processes and support its Member States in harmonization of refugee protection and management policies, legislation and practices in the region for fair, predictable and gender-responsive asylum procedures through this policy framework.

Ato Bruhtesfa Mulugeta, Deputy Director General, Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), on his part disclosed that the Policy Framework on Refugee Protection will augment and consolidate the achievement of the on-going IGAD-led processes by promoting comparable and predictable mechanisms for refugee management across the region, which will strengthen the sharing of experience and best practices across different contexts as well as transfer of technical capacity between IGAD Member States.

“Ethiopia believes that IGAD’s Policy Framework on Refugee Protection seeks to address multiple and interlinked concerns, manage the rising number sustainably and find durable solutions within.” He noted

On behalf of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for the East Horn and Great Lakes of Africa, Director, Mr. Mamadou Dian Balde and the Regional Head of the Protection Services Mr. Charles Mballa, Senai Terrefe, Senior protection Coordinator, underlined that the validation of the IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection before you is indeed a remarkable achievement for and by the IGAD region.

“IGAD through the formulation of this comprehensive policy has taken an important step of anchoring the centrality of protection and a rights-based approach to asylum as a core part of its work.” He stated.

In addition, he described UNHCR has supported the formulation  of the IGAD policy framework on Refugee Protection from its very inception as it has  the refugee management  policy of the East African Community and the elaboration of a regional solutions strategy in the Great Lakes by the ICGLR.

On his remarks, Mr Mohamed Ali Katnil, Deputy Executive Secretary of ONARS, mentioned that IGAD adopted a regional approach to strengthen refugee protection and find durable solutions for displaced populations and their host communities.

“We recognize that refugee protection is a national responsibility, but IGAD recognizes that our member states need support to build their capacities and fulfill these obligations. A successful regional approach will enable a fair distribution of responsibilities for refugee protection, based on equity, respect for sovereignty, reciprocity and solidarity.” He noted

According to Mr. Mohamed, this approach covers several priority areas, including maintaining asylum space, effective protection, education, livelihoods, self-reliance, return and reintegration. It aims to harmonize refugee protection policies, legislation and practices in the region.

The workshop brought together experts from each Member State at the level of Commissioners/Directors, Senior Legal Officer, Senior Protection Officers, Senior Registration/Refugee Status Determination Officers, and IGAD’s Focal Points at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, UNHCR and  IGAD  secretariat.

Finally, Experts from seven IGAD Member States, with support from partners including Sweden and UNHCR, reviewed and provided important inputs to the various provisions under the 11 priority areas in the IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection.  IGAD Secretariat incorporated the agreed reviews into the draft Policy Framework.  Subsequently, the updated document was presented to delegates. Member States validated the Policy Framework on Refugee Protection.

Since 2017, IGAD Member States have made concerted efforts to seek sustainable solutions for displaced populations and their host communities through the Nairobi Declaration and various thematic declarations on Education, Health, Jobs, Livelihoods, and Self-reliance. IGAD has also supported various development and solutions initiatives in our Member States.

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