We need a holistic approach to address refugee challenges: Our views to Oxford
We need at the same time to focus at the causes why people are forced to run away from their countries, we need to focus on the policies governing them in the countries of asylum and we need to focus on the management of the Humanitarian Relief Aid. These are views which are still lack strong political engagement. Find more here
Refugee issues cannot be addressed in isolation, there three things in one which make forced Migrants
A comprehensive approach to understand and respond towards forced migration is highly needed if we are to make a significant impact. These things are inter-independent, inter-linked and cannot be dissociated from each other, they form a trinity as they include: The causes of forced displacement which are highly governance issues, the legal frame work to govern forced displaced people and humanitarian responses towards their needs.
Currently my host country Uganda is a home of the largest numbers of refugees in Africa and one among the five most refugee hosting countries in world. According to statistics from my observation, more that 98% of these refugees come from countries which have issues in relation to good governance, respect of human rights, the rule of the law, and democracy among others. The majority of these refugees are from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, none of these countries is a democratic, some of these countries are at war and others are characterized by massive human rights violations and dictatorship.
Little efforts have been deployed to honestly address governance issues in these countries, western powers which claim having pillars on human rights, Democracy and good governance are engaged with so much reservations to address what they stand for. President Paul Kagame who is often elected with 98% is referred to as model to imitate, president Museveni is viewed as western policeman in the region, currently a country like Germany is making political deals with all the worst regimes in Africa such as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan yet people run away from these countries because of oppression, the purpose of these political deals is to control immigration rather than ending it. The solution if to table how we can end forced migration in the world.
Much as Uganda hosts the big number of refugees in Africa we should also be aware that Uganda contributes to the displacement of more than 75% of the refugee population from their countries of origin by supporting politically or military one belligerent in the conflict, either rebel groups or a government which is not liked by people in in South Sudan, Rwanda, D R Congo and Somalia.
We need to understand better why do people run away from their countries, and what is being done in order to force people run away. In terms of responses, we see now that the attention of making democracy, good governance and respect of human rights a priority for collaboration with developed countries, China is imposing its influence of looking only at the interest, which even other countries are also copying.
Much as Uganda welcomes refugees, it is also important to acknowledged that the world has failed in its responses towards refugees in the region, basing on my observation, more than 70 % of leaders who are abusing their own people were also refugees within the region and these include those in power in Burundi, Rwanda, D R Congo, Somalia and South Sudan and when they were refugees probably they were not empowered in issues of good governance, democracy, and the respect of human rights but they were told how to use guns. It is now time to think about the current refugees we have and which kind of refugees we shall repatriate to their countries of origin in 5, 10 or 15 years to come. Such move needs a long term plan and sustainable interventions which are beyond these actions aiming at short term responses.
The legal framework governing refugees
Over the years the world has not yet managed to put in place a progressive legal regime which can address the real issues of refugees currently and which takes into consideration the real reality of refugees. The spirit of the global legal policy in place is to manage refugees, to control refugees and to limit refugees rather than to empower and to develop refugees. We need new legal framework which is based on human rights principles and which considers refugees as stakeholders in refugee affaires, rather than mere consumers, this legal framework should include the capacity of refugees to contribute to the development in their host communities and to be more and more free from the dependency of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees but also be more independent from the relief aid.
It is our time now also to push for another global policy which will replace the UN 1951 Refugee Convention. And the place forum to address this issue is that United Nations level.
The Humanitarian Response
Over the years the humanitarian relief response towards refugees alone has greatly failed to address issues affecting refugees in the world. While the relief aid is important and intended to support the needs of refugees, in my host country Uganda, it is not clear to many who does benefit from this aid. Much as sporadic information comes from the media about the donation from some countries to refugees through UNHCR, it is difficult to know other source of funding managed by the refugee regime spear headed by UNHCR and the government of Uganda. Over the years there are challenges of perceptions, the refugee regime always push for more aid in order to offer better services while refugees do complain that even the little aid which is said to be available does not reach to them, the donors always do not mind so much about what has the aid done. Often times the humanitarian relief aid is more seen as being in the hands of the few within the refugee regime who appear living more in abundance while refugees live in destitution.
It is important to also address the issues of the management of the humanitarian aid relief and to make sure it reaches they people it is made to help. This struggle needs more a strong engagement of partners who should clearly empower refugees in human rights, good governance and accountability, refugees who can be engaged in addressing social injustices, refugees who can take leadership roles, strong refugees in advocacy and also refugees who are at the table where decisions are being taken but also refugees who are playing different roles at the community level. This requires that refugee led organizations are able to easily access funding, that refugees led organizations can access all different trainings, and other empowerment opportunities to participate in seminars, conferences, short courses, and may at the same time partner with other institutions but also air their aspirations and what they think are the solutions to their challenges.
By transiting from humanitarian approach to human rights principles we should be much aware that human beings play a front-line role in that movement. The United Nations which claims the monopoly as the guarantor of human rights in the world should emphasize on the respect of human rights in all their interventions towards refugees. In Uganda for example the United Nations Agencies do strongly participate in many decisions against which violate refugee rights and which do not abide with the requirement of human rights standards. Among the controversial ones we can mention Unicef which take part in decision that refugees children should be considered equal as children in the host community in order to access basic education yet these two cannot be compared, WHO which decides that refugees can only seek for medical treatment in a public health centers while knowing all the problems affecting the health center here in Uganda, the WFP which decides that a refugee should be given 6kg of maize per month and so many others.
While these harsh decisions are taken, in most cases they go unchallenged and they are life costly especially to refugees. When the relief aid is given, those who contribute for that aid should at the same time ensure that we have place mechanisms of power-balance, offices are not turned into a prosecution chamber and when a decision is taken there are option to challenge it especially if refugees feel it is not on their advantages. And the best way for this is refugee led organizations which should be strongly supported financially.
In summary our responses towards forced migration should emphasize on three wings which include governance in the country of origin, the legal frame work in the country of asylum and the management of Humanitarian Relief Aid.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Foundation People for Peace and Defense of Human Rights