It is a time of record displacement worldwide. Ten countries are currently sheltering some 60 per cent of the world’s 22.5 million refugees, and more than 84 per cent of refugees are hosted by low or middle income countries.
Against this backdrop, the UNHCR is hosting discussions in Geneva as was how refugees can be included into the national, health, education, social services and development plans by the countries hosting them, which in turn should be supported to do so.
A panelist from northern Uganda, which has been at the forefront of South Sudan’s refugee crisis in recent years and has one of the most progressive refugee systems in the world, told delegates he saw including and educating refugees in local systems as an opportunity to contribute to peace building in the region.
“I strongly believe by supporting education we help not only the refugees but the entire peace process in South Sudan,” explained Mr James Leku, Chairman of the Adjumani district, who also spent time as a refugee in southern Sudan. “If refugees return to South Sudan as well informed citizens, the whole country will benefit. Education can break the cycle of violence. It is our duty to contribute to the region in which we live,” he said noting that both the prime minister and president of Uganda had also spent time as refugees.
Throughout the two-day meeting, refugee youth have made a strong call for refugees to be involved in the response to their situation from the outset of a crisis, calling for strategies to meet not just the needs of refugees but also their aspirations.