Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged full United Nations support to help Africa address the needs of some 14 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) driven from their homes by fighting and prevent the conflicts that caused their plight.
“In seeking to bring peace and prevent conflict across the continent, the African Union (AU) is an indispensable partner of the United Nations,” he said in a message to an AU special summit on refugees, returnees and IDPs delivered by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“Together, we must work harder to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law, and to implement conflict prevention and resolution measures, particularly in the face of politically motivated violence.”
Although the number of refugees in Africa today is about one fifth its peak in the mid-1990s, there are nearly 12 million people forcibly displaced by conflict within their own countries in Africa, nearly five times the number of refugees, and when persons displaced by causes other than conflict are included, the figure is even higher, Mr. Ban declared.
“Everyone displaced by conflict or natural disaster is an individual – a person, likely a woman or child, who may be undernourished and living in fear of recruitment or rape, a person whose potential remains unrealized, with dreams unfulfilled and contributions forgone,” he stressed. “You have come together to forge a better future.
“I commend the summit's emphasis on addressing root causes and preventing the conflicts that give rise to displacement. At the same time, let us remember that disasters, particularly slow-onset disasters such as drought, are also a major cause of internal displacement,” he added, calling for investment in disaster risk reduction.
Likewise, it is vital that December’s meeting in Copenhagen on global warming provide for adaptation measures addressing the heightened vulnerability of Africans to climate-change-induced displacement, he said.
He underlined the importance not only of preventing displacement but also of protecting those already displaced. “Millions remain in protracted displacement for years, and even generations, after they have fled their homes,” he said. “Finding durable solutions for them is one of the greatest challenges in post-crisis situations.
“Reconstruction and development, and the reestablishment of law and order, are critical for the displaced to successfully reintegrate with safety and dignity.”