The Government of South Sudan used the consultations held in Juba from 6th to 8th September 2023 to take stock of the implementation status of pledges and commitments made by South Sudan at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, highlight challenges and discuss best practices in the implementation of the commitments and established the roadmap in preparation for the December 2023 GRF to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2019, South Sudan made five commitments and pledges towards refugees and returnees at the Global Refugee Forum. There was commitment to creating lasting solutions to enable conditions for sustainable returns of South Sudanese, a pledge to increase access to quality education for refugees and host communities and a pledge to expand economic opportunities and ensure equitable economic development in refugee hosting areas.
In environment management, there was a pledge to create access to sustainable and green energy solutions for refugees and host communities and a final pledge to address statelessness and committing to accession to the 1954 and 1961 Conventions and adopt a National Action Plan to Eradicate Statelessness. Earlier, the Government commissioned a consultant to review the implementation of the pledges and the draft report presented at the consultative meeting.
Participants were drawn from the National Taskforce Committee for Durable Solutions (NTC), local authorities, UNHCR, refugee representatives with sessions moderated by the Commission for Refugee Affairs. The NTC is made up of 15 Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies including the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and other Ministries in charge of Lands, Interior affairs, Gender, Health, Environment and others.
On behalf of Madam Fathia Alwan, Director of Health and Social Development, IGAD, Dr Osman Bilal underlined the importance of the national consultative meeting as fundamental for IGAD region’s preparation for the upcoming GRF. “Our goal is to outline a comprehensive roadmap that will guide South Sudan’s preparations for the upcoming 2023 Global Refugee Forum and we should strive to identify the key priorities for the Government of South Sudan and the region at large.”
In his remarks, Hon. Dr. Santino Bol, the Undersecretary in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management stressed that despite not receiving a fair share of burden-sharing, the government had achieved most of the pledges it committed to at the 2019 GRF. Santino cited policies such as open-door policy, free education, access to agricultural land, and business licenses as examples of successful support measures in relation to the pledges.
Bernadette Berepayo a Congolese Refugee from Makpandu Refugee Camp in Western Equatorial State thanked the Government of South Sudan for providing solutions in form of free education and free health services to the refugees while Kalaba Mokili a Congolese Refugee from Yei Settlement in Eastern Equatorial State was appreciative of the opportunity to access land for agriculture and livelihood support. Kalaba said that most refugees have been trained in different skills but underscored the need for employment opportunities and increased support to cover all refugee settlements.
The National consultations also served as an opportunity for the review of the country chapters on the inception report on the status of refugee management in the IGAD Region and contribute to the priority areas of the IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection. In the Commission for Refugee Affairs (CRA) led process, participants discussed the main findings of the national consultations, key priority areas and recommended actions.
IGAD working with Members States and with support from the Government of Sweden has been coordinating the development of the IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection which aims at harmonizing refugee protection management policies, legislation and practices in the IGAD Region.
Jacob Apollo, IGAD’s Refugee Protection Officer noted that the Regional Policy on Refugee Protection and Management will complement the efforts of the IGAD Declarations and provide guidance towards regionally harmonized socio-economic policies which promote the inclusion of refugees in IGAD member states.
“The regional refugee framework will consolidate the achievement of the ongoing initiatives by promoting comparable and predictable common refugee mechanisms for refugee management across the region.”
The consultations with South Sudan finalised the member state review process and the final report will be presented for validation at the upcoming regional meeting slated for September 18th – 20 September, 2023 in Djibouti.
Additionally, the workshop was concluded with key recommendations for the government of South Sudan to complete the stock take report on the progress of the 2019 GRF, draw the roadmap and identify new pledges towards the 2023 GRF.