Natural Disasters

Countries must treat refugees as assets; aid to them can be seen as investment

The refugees must be given the opportunities to become self-reliant and contribute to their host countries

 
By Richard Mahapatra, Subhojit Goswami
Last Updated: Monday 05 March 2018
Sustainable development goals and eradication of poverty won't be realised without factoring in the well-being of refugees. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Sustainable development goals and eradication of poverty won't be realised without factoring in the well-being of refugees. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Sustainable development goals and eradication of poverty won't be realised without factoring in the well-being of refugees. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There are more than 21 million refugees around the world, with most of them living in protracted refugee situation wherein they find themselves in a state of limbo with their basic rights remaining unfulfilled after years of exile. This was the starting point of the panel discussion on ‘Effective Partnerships for Aid & Development Programmes in Africa’ on the first day of the Africa Summit organised by the Aid & International Development Forum in Nairobi from February 27-28.

Catherine Wiesner, regional refugee coordinator, UNHCR says high volume of refugee population and the response it needs, will, and is already changing the contours of international development aid as it is now accepted as a development challenge. Financial resources needed for refugee response are not keeping pace with the problem. As many point out, this throws a challenge of prioritising overseas development aid allocation.

Mathias Lardinois, programme coordinator at Enabel, a Belgian Development Agency, says making local communities and government own development programmes through overseas development aid is a big challenge. "This is more important than new partnership."

Sustainable development goals (SDGs) and eradication of poverty, according to Catherine, won't be realised without factoring in the well-being of refugees. It is this challenge of meeting the SDGs that is pushing countries and multilateral agencies to focus more on how development aid can be further used to achieve this.

Measuring and making development assistance effective is another key challenge in this context. In Africa, it is more pronounced as the continent has always been preoccupied with emergency situations like drought. Hence, refugees need priority allocation of resources. According to Catherine, governments and donors need to decide on how much to be allocated for which development. But refugees need both emergency response and long-term support. They should be treated as economic assets so that the aid devoted now is considered a long-term development investment.

“Giving refugees opportunities to become self-reliant and contribute to their host countries and communities means a range of new exciting partnerships with development investors, private sector, social enterprise and financial service providers,” says Catherine. She has, time and again, raised concerns over how chronic underfunding for Burundi refugees is severely affecting the quality of protection rendered by host countries.

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