Approximately 300 representatives from across Africa took part in a roundtable conference co-organized in Addis Ababa by the African Union (AU), UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency on Saturday, 9 February 2019.
The conference was aimed at tackling the root causes of forced displacement in Africa and sought to recommend concrete actions to achieve durable solutions. The gathering was also planned at galvanizing support from a wide variety of AU partners to the organization’s annual theme for 2019, which will be formally announced this weekend as the “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”.
The roundtable, gathering several high-level participants, including AU Commissioner for Political Affairs H.E. Minata Samate Cessouma and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, was among events linked to Sunday’s Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
It enabled a wider participation of AU partners including UN agencies, NGOs, civil society organizations, academic, development experts, faith-based organizations and representatives of displaced populations.
Forced displacement is a major issue for Africa. More than a third of the world’s forcibly displaced people are in Africa, including 6.3 million refugees and asylum-seekers and 14.5 million IDPs.
Delegates cited as causes of forced displacement issues such as armed conflict, terrorism, lack of good governance, the absence of rule of law and respect for human rights, corruption, economic inequality and inequality in resource distribution.
Participants noted that eliminating root causes, which are numerous and complex, is the most effective way to achieve solutions. There was agreement that AU states and the international community must do a better job of identifying the root causes of forced displacement, and the relationships between them.
The roundtable stressed that averting and responding to major refugee situations across the world is a serious concern for the international community, as well as the need to ensure early warning and prevention.
This year’s focus on refugees comes as the AU commemorates two key piece of legislation on forced displacement: the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention on Refugees and the 10th anniversary of the 2009 AU Convention on Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). The AU and its partners, including UNHCR, plan several commemorative events across the country during the year.
Other notable speakers at the roundtable included Khabele Matlosa, director of the AU’s Department for Political Affairs; and keynote speaker, Chaloka Beyani, Associate Professor at the London School of Economics.
Ireland’s Minister of Youth and Children Katharine Zappone also spoke on the central theme of the roundtable, which was also attended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Jeria; and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Director General Antonio Vitorino.
The roundtable was marked by an exhibition arranged by various humanitarian agencies and refugees, as well as a musical performance by a choir mainly comprising refugee children from various countries in Africa.
The AU’s 2019 theme was formally launched during the AU Summit on Sunday, 10 February 2019.