High Level Segment on Enhancing International Cooperation, Solidarity, Local Capacities and Humanitarian Action for Refugees in Africa

Statement by the Government of Canada

Delivered by Mr. David Manicom, Acting Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the 65th SESSION of the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES

Geneva, 29 September – 3 October 2014

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA INTERVENTION TO THE 65th SESSION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

High Level Segment on Africa

Mr. Chair,

The situation affecting refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa is extremely complex. The High Commissioner has highlighted the demands on the UNHCR and the affected countries in the region as a result of multiple concurrent crises, while at the same time trying to make progress in advancing  longer term solutions to address the challenges of IDPs. Canada has long been committed to Africa and continually works to provide timely and effective humanitarian and development assistance to crisis-affected populations.  The recent and tragic outbreak and spread of the Ebola virus highlights the disproportionate suffering that often plagues this continent and often leads to further destabilization of security and economic conditions that are necessary for long term stability.  UNSCR 2177, which urges immediate action and an end to the isolation of Ebola-affected states underscored the seriousness of the crisis. In this regard we join the call for better UN agency coordination. 

The crises that have dominated the continent over the past year, and the resulting significant distress and displacement, demand our solidarity and collective action to provide protection and assistance and encourage resilience and solutions. Canada recognizes the generosity of neighbouring countries in providing refuge and assistance to those fleeing, and also note the impact of the Kampala Convention to respond to situations of internal displacement. Open borders allowing refugee’s access to safe havens remain essential. We recognize the significant political and economic challenges associated with doing so.

Canada commends UNHCR’s efforts to strengthen regional coordination and facilitate initiatives to minimize wider impacts of the humanitarian crisis on the region.  For example, UNHCR’s collaboration with religious leaders in CAR on reconciliation efforts to counter religious intolerance is vital and very much encouraged by Canada. These efforts are essential to ending the current cycle of violence and reprisals. Canada supports international efforts to create a more secure and stable environment to facilitate much needed humanitarian assistance and longer-term development, including increasing livelihoods opportunities for refugees, reintegrating returnees and promoting strategic resettlement.

As we tackle pressing rapid on-set crises, identifying and implementing durable solutions to long-standing situations of displacement must remain a priority.  As we do so, we must ensure that all voluntary returns are conducted in a safe and dignified manner with due regard for domestic and international law, with appropriate consideration given to each person’s particular circumstances and the security conditions in potential areas of return.  We must also endeavor to build capacity and foster economic conditions conducive to long term stability and the prevention of future crises.

As is the case in other regions of the world, we regret that efforts to respond to some crises in Africa have at times been hindered by a lack of humanitarian access due to insecure conditions, administrative obstacles, and the remoteness and inaccessibility of many locations. We are further distressed by continuing reports of violence against women, including sexual violence against civilian populations and displaced people and call for greater commitments domestically in addressing these concerns.  Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to be subjected to serious abuse at the hands of terrorist groups, state agents, and criminal smuggling and trafficking networks as they moved from the East and Horn of Africa to Egypt and Israel, as well as to Europe and the Americas. It is too often the most vulnerable members of a community, women and children, that are the targets and greatest victims of this violence. These challenges demand policy innovation and coherence, and a more consistent international response effort that draws on non-traditional as well as established partners.

Mr. Chair,

Canada is committed to providing timely and effective humanitarian assistance to crisis-affected populations in Africa. To date in 2014, we have contributed CAD 24.5 million to UNHCR operations in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Somalia.  In particular, Canada has contributed CAD 3 million to the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy to End Protracted Refugees Crisis. This funding supports UNHCR efforts for the local integration of Angolan refugees in Zambia.  We also commend the efforts of the Government of Zambia towards these efforts. In addition to humanitarian support which often addresses the consequences of displacement, Canada is also committed to supporting longer term development efforts in Africa. As a result, 10 of our 25 development countries of focus are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Canada’s refugee resettlement program has long been used to support the protection needs of refugees in Africa. Resettlement can play an important role in leveraging solutions, and in protecting the most vulnerable of refugees. To that end, Canada has made multiyear resettlement commitments to two refugee populations in Africa – Congolese and Eritreans. We encourage the UNHCR, as part of their work on comprehensive solutions frameworks in Africa, to continue to ensure that resettlement efforts are part of broader solutions strategies.    

Canada can be counted on to continuously examine how we can best assist in meeting evolving humanitarian, development and security needs and challenges.  We appreciate UNHCR’s ongoing efforts to assist and provide protection for millions of displaced persons, and we will continue to work with UNHCR and the international community to address longstanding and emerging protection challenges in Africa.

Thank you.