UN refugee agency chief opens symposium on African's displaced persons

19 June 2003

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, today opened an international symposium in Tokyo on the refugee crisis in Africa, where nearly 4.6 million people currently receive support from the UN agency.

Addressing a crowd of over 350 delegates at the opening of the International Symposium on Refugees in Africa, Mr. Lubbers and his predecessor, Sadako Ogata, both stressed the importance of a multilateral and multidimensional approach designed to raise awareness about the plight and solutions for refugees in Africa.

"You will agree that with all that is happening in the world today, Africa risks to be forgotten," said Mr. Lubbers. "Let us work together to maximize this opportunity to focus on Africa and keep it on the map."

The refugee situation in Africa remains mixed, he said, juxtaposing the progress of repatriation to Angola, Eritrea, Rwanda and Sierra Leone against protracted crises like Somalia, Sudan and Burundi. To address such long-standing problems, Mr. Lubbers called for a phased approach - of repatriation, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction - and multilateral partnerships to integrate relief and development aid.

"Too often, refugees are seen solely as a humanitarian problem," Ms. Ogata said, urging a more multidimensional approach. "If human security is our goal, then we must analyze refugee questions in a broader context - by linking the humanitarian dimension of forced human displacement with development, security, human rights and governance related issues."

Ms. Ogata said strategies for refugees must integrate protection during armed conflict and empowerment through education, especially for girls, skills training and community development.

The symposium will end on Friday, World Refugee Day.


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