By Victoria Ojeme
The United Nations size the crisis situation in Nigeria’s North East remains volatile as over two million have been internally displaced with three hundred thousand persons seeking refuge in neighbouring Lake Chad countries.
According to Ms. Chansa Kapaya, Country Representative, UNHCR Nigeria who spoke today at a Stakeholders Meeting on the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Compact has four objectives: to ease pressure on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third country solutions and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
Kapaya said “More Internally Displaced Persons have been forced to leave their homes with over 2 Million internally displaced while another 300,000 Nigerians displaced externally and have sought refuge in the neighbouring Lake Chad Basin countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.”
“The operating environment remains extremely volatile, particularly in Borno State for civilians, aid workers, humanitarian cargo and assets,” she added.
Affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018, the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) is an act of solidarity, recognizing the international community’s shared responsibility for protecting, assisting and finding solutions to refugees.
The GCR outlines a new model of working and practical arrangements to translate this aspiration into action. UNHCR’s role is to support the implementation of the Compact through the Global Refugee Forum (to be held every four years from December 2019) and to report to the UN General Assembly on progress made towards meeting the objectives of this compact.
She commended Nigeria’s exemplary regional leadership for its commitment to the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).
“You will recall that in Nigeria the process of consultations on the Global Compact on Refugees began last year between May and November 2019 with consultation meetings organized jointly by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced persons ( NCFRMI) and UNHCR at State and Federal level to develop National Pledges. These pledges were later announced by the Government of Nigeria to UN Member States at the first ever historic Global Refugee Forum in Geneva Switzerland which took place from 17-18 December 2019.
“It should be recalled that , Nigeria faces complex humanitarian challenges but despite this, has been a generous host country to refugees and asylum-seekers for decades from within the region and far beyond and has provided a safe haven and access to essential life-saving basic services. The country has been home to over 61,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have sought refuge from neighbouring Cameroon escaping from political tensions in the South West and North West of the country since 2017.
“UNHCR and the Government of Nigeria continue to record hundreds of new arrivals every month, these refugees are hosted predominately in the South- South in the states of Cross River, Benue and Taraba. The Country also hosts some 4,300 Urban refugees and asylum seekers living in various urban centers in Nigeria mainly from the DRC, CAR, Cameron, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.
“In addition, Nigeria faces a protracted humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria particularly in the three States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe which is now over a decade with a cycle of violence and displacements due to insurgency activities of NSAG that continues to create new emergencies. Despite a significant scale-up of humanitarian response since 2016, more and more Internally Displaced Persons have been forced to leave their homes with over two million internally displaced while another 300,000 Nigerians displaced externally and have sought refuge in the neighbouring Lake Chad Basin countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The operating environment remains extremely volatile, particularly in Borno State for civilians, aid workers, humanitarian cargo and assets.
“The Governors of refugee-hosting states here with us today, have shown tremendous leadership in responding to the refugee crises by ensuring that refugees have access to asylum in Nigeria and access critical life-saving services, including to livelihood opportunities where possible. Cameroonian refugees to a large extent live amongst and share basic services with their Nigerian hosts with about 59% self-settled and living in Nigerian local communities while 41 % live in the 4 settlements in the three States mentioned above.
“I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Nigeria for its unwavering pledge to her international obligations on protection of refugees, despite her own challenges including the additional strain on hosting large numbers of refugees on social services, the environment and economy. The fact remains that the influx of refugees into some local communities has increased the pressure on education, health, WASH and other community services which were already stretched prior to the influx.
“It is precisely because of such situations that the Global Compact on Refugees recognizes the need to take a holistic, whole of society approach, covering the continuum of forced displacement, not only regarding refugees but also Internally Displaced Persons, asylum seekers, returnees, and stateless persons and their host communities.
“The Government of Nigeria’s commitment to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers has been renewed on many occasions and Nigeria has demonstrated exemplary reception and support towards forcibly displaced populations as evidenced by the progressive commitments it made at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 for the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
“These important pledges pivot around the objective of empowering refugees to be self-reliant while supporting the communities that generously host them.
“Nigeria has committed to the following pledges: 1. Include refugees, IDPs and their host communities in government development plans. 2. Strengthen national protection capacity. 3. Ensure availability and access to durable solutions for refugees and IDPs. 4. Continue playing an active role in regional and sub-regional efforts to address the root causes of displacement.
“The primary objective therefore of this meeting is to take stock and discuss practical ways to support the government in the implementation of the Pledges and objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees Pledges through a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework approach in Nigeria.
“In embracing the GCR, Nigeria is committing to developing a holistic and sustainable approach that seeks to simultaneously strengthen the protection and rights of refugees; support the greater inclusion of refugees within the society; and recognize and foster development opportunities for refugees, IDPs and their host communities.
“This draws from the recognition that the forced displacement situations can no longer only be responded to, through a humanitarian lens alone, and that there is need to broaden the base of support for comprehensive responses that strengthen our collective response to forced displacement and to translate the principles of the Global Compact on Refugees into concrete action .
“The dramatic growth in the suffering of over 80 million people globally who have fallen victim to war and persecution requires an equally dramatic growth in funding. In Nigeria, whereas humanitarian funding for the refugee operation in the South- South continues to decline, there still remains a critical gap in responding to the vital and essential needs of refugees and their Nigerian hosts especially access to quality health, education and interventions that support their self-reliance.
“In order to ensure a sustainable, predictable and more efficient response for the benefit of refugees , IDPS and host communities, the engagement not only of governments but also a broad range of actors such as development and humanitarian actors, private sector, individual philanthropists , corporations , multilateral development banks through a range of financing and policy instruments, educational institutions, religious institutions, foundations and sporting organizations, is crucial.
“Likewise, now is the time to translate the GCR principle into practice, through the inclusion of refugees into national development plans and programmes and supporting the COVID 19 response by ensuring refugees and people who are internally displaced or stateless are included in national and local responses. This is because the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened humanitarian needs and complicated the humanitarian response.
“Additionally, measures required to mitigate the pandemic, and the need to dedicate resources to curtailing the virus’ spread have impacted on livelihoods of people and cascaded down to loss of income and buying power, with acute effects on the already-vulnerable causing food-insecurity.
“At the same time, it is also vital that we tackle the root causes of displacement, as highlighted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly in the New York Declaration.
“The UN in Nigeria is also implementing approaches aligned with the Global Compact on Refugees and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework through the UN Sustainable Development and Partnership Framework (UNSDPF) 2018 -2022. Delivering as One, the Partnership Framework remains a key vehicle for joint programming and for ensuring that the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are met without excluding any vulnerable group. On behalf of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, I would like to reaffirm the full support of the UN Country Team in Nigeria for the Global Compact on Refugees and the commitments made by the Nigerian Government. We will continue ensuring that the Global Compact on Refugees remains a priority issue.
“UNHCR stands ready to support and work closely with the Government and other stakeholders in implementing , following up and reporting on their pledges and commitments at the Global Refugee Forum, as well as future planning and looks to the leadership of the Government of Nigeria to implement the Global Compact on Refugees by ensuring that the needed national systems and structures are in place.
“Looking ahead, it is essential to develop a road map that lays out concrete next steps and priorities, identifies operational entry points and defines indicators for short- and longer-term progress in areas such as health, education, water, sanitation, jobs and livelihoods, energy, infrastructure, solutions and protection capacity,” Kapaya said.