Ethiopia at the Global Refugee Forum

20 Dec 2019

A high-level delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen attended the first–ever Global Refugee Forum, held in Geneva from 16th – 18th December.

Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen arrives for the Global Refugee Forum and is greeted by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The Forum brought together some 3,000 participants, ranging from government representatives, international financial organisations, business, civil society, and humanitarian and development organisations, as well as refugees, and is a key element of the Global Compact on Refugees, which the international community signed last December. It calls for Global Refugee Forums to be held every four years.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency,  co-hosted the Forum together with Switzerland, and it was co-convened by Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Germany, Pakistan and Turkey. The aim of the Forum was to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live.

The Forum focussed on six themes: arrangements for burden and responsibility-sharing, education, jobs and livelihoods, energy and infrastructure, solutions and protection capacity.

…Ethiopia’s doors are always open for refugees

In his keynote address, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke called for a comprehensive response to refugees.

“Ethiopia has a proud history of providing protection of and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers which dates back to the 7th century.”

“While we have our own developmental challenges and limited resources and in spite of the significant strain on our natural resources, Ethiopia has kept its doors open for refugees. We strongly believe that such a longstanding generosity is a demonstration of exemplary levels of solidarity to our brothers and sisters of our region,” he said.

“My Government has always been committed to initiate and implement comprehensive approaches towards refugee response. In this regard, at the Leaders’ Summit on refugees in September 2016 in New York, the Government of Ethiopia made bold commitments through the nine pledges that aim to sustainably improve the lives of refugees and host communities. Since then, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, Ethiopia has already made significant progress in achieving some of the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees. This is particularly evident in the increasing number of refugee enrolments in all levels of education including tertiary education and jobs and livelihood opportunities. In addition, the number of refugees residing outside the camps have significantly increased. The new refugee law, adopted in 2019, sets a legal framework to enhance freedom of movement and inclusion of refugees in our national systems.”

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen addresses the Global Refugee Forum.

“Furthermore, the Government of Ethiopia formally launched the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework at national and local levels in November 2017, and it also embraced the subsequent adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018. A National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy is tabled for approval by the Council of Ministers, with a view to gradually creating self-reliant and resilient refugees and host communities, through enhancing harmonized and integrated services and solutions.”

The Deputy Prime Minister announced Ethiopia’s new pledges that are strongly linked with existing commitments and aligned with the focus areas of the Forum.

The Government of Ethiopia commits to:

  1. Create up-to 90,000 socio-economic opportunitiesthrough agricultural and livestock value chains that benefit both refugees and host communities.
  2. Provide quality and accredited skills training to 20,000 hosts and refugeeson an equitable basis, taking into account the labour market demand and linkages with existing and new commitments in expanding socio-economic opportunities.
  3. Provide market-based and sustainable household and facility-based energy solutions for 3 million hosts and refugeesthrough promoting clean and renewable energy sources.
  4. Strengthening the Government of Ethiopia’s Asylum System and Social Protection Capacity.

He concluded by calling upon all stakeholders to “work together in tackling the root-causes of forced displacement” and expressed the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to deepen inclusive policies towards refugees.

The Forum concluded on 18thDecember with more than 770 pledges of support, covering areas such as protection, employment and education, for refugees and the communities which have taken them in.

“I want to salute the efforts pledged by many countries – both donors and host countries – and by business leaders, civil society and refugees themselves, to redouble efforts in support of refugee inclusion, self-reliance and solutions,” UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi told the first-ever Global Refugee Forum closing session.

“The energy and commitment that has resonated over the last three days is a testimony that despite a difficult global environment, there is a shared commitment to protecting those fleeing in search of refuge.”

…Ethiopia’s long-standing history of hosting refugees

Ahead of the Forum, a two-day regional conference on “Delivering the Global Compact on Refugees: Local Approaches to Inclusion,” was held in Addis Ababa on 31stOctober. The conference brought together representatives and stakeholders from the East Africa region to share experiences and identify opportunities to achieve the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, with a focus on local approaches to the inclusion of refugees within their host communities.

In her remarks at the event, Ethiopia’s Minister of Peace, Muferihat Kamil said “Ethiopia is happy to host this conference as an extension of its long-standing and proud history of hosting refugees for centuries. Equitable partnerships and responsibility sharing are key to the success of the Refugee Compact, to ensure refugee and hosts receive the support they need.”

Ethiopia currently hosts close to a million refugees from neighbouring countries. Earlier this year, the country approved a historic new refugee law which allows refugees to obtain work permits, access primary education, obtain drivers’ licences, legally register births and open up access to national financial services.

A copy of H.E. Mr Demeke Mekonnen’s statement at the Global Refugee Forum is available on request. Please email

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