Wednesday, 30 October 2013

            Nairobi Kenya – October 29th, 2013; The African Union today concluded a two-day Annual Humanitarian Symposium on the theme “Beyond Assistance: Humanitarian Challenges and Durable Solutions in Africa,” in Nairobi, Kenya. The Symposium which was convened by the Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons Division of the Political Affairs of the African Union Commission presented a platform to humanitarian actors in Africa to discuss some of the main trends in the humanitarian situation across the continent, policy and practice shifts with regards to humanitarian action. The Symposium garnered consensus on vital positions and actions to pursue with regards to implementation of key humanitarian issues that shape the African agenda.
            It drew high level participants from different humanitarian agencies, including the UN, International organizations, NGOs, national organizations, and representatives from Member States. The symposium provided a platform for engagement at a continental level on humanitarian issues, including Protection and displacement issues in Africa; Disaster management and Response; Humanitarian action; Durable solutions; and envisioned humanitarian agenda and response mechanisms in Africa.
            The Symposium was officially opened by the Refugee Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya who noted the invaluable role the AU IDP Convention for the protection and assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. He also highlighted the burden that Kenya is shouldering including security impact in hosting the largest refugee camp in the world.
            In his keynote address the Chairperson of the PRC Sub-Committee on Refugees, Returnees an Internally Displaced Persons while extending his condolences to the Government and people of   Kenya for the losses suffered at the Westgate terror attack, emphasized the importance of the concerted dialogue in proffering long lasting solutions to the humanitarian challenges in Africa. In his words, “The persistence of humanitarian crises on the continent, not just of displacement, calls for collective reflection on the prevailing system and approach to addressing humanitarian crises.”
            The Commissioner for Political Affairs, H.E. Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi in the opening remarks presented on her behalf, observed the broad scope in addressing humanitarian challenges and the crucial roles and responsibilities of the relevant humanitarian actors in these efforts. Hoping that in the coming years addressing humanitarian challenges will take a new face with the adoption of the African-wide policy that speaks to the targeted needs of refugees and displaced persons and with Africans being the first responders to humanitarian crises facing the Continent. She said “…we look forward to the adoption of the African Humanitarian Policy Framework. The framework will set out the platform for the African Union on its coordinating role with the humanitarian and development actors, towards the development and implementation of comprehensive durable solutions and strategies.”
The Humanitarian Symposium witnessed discussions bordering on issues in humanitarian action, evaluating different frameworks that address the humanitarian crises on the Continent, practicable and applicable durable solutions and more importantly discussions devoted to strategizing around priorities for the humanitarian community with regards to engaging with the ongoing processes and key actions at various national, regional, and continental levels to be undertaken.
The Symposium highlighted the fact that humanitarian challenges and actions are collective ones and therefore require a collective response. While the primary responsibility of the State was reaffirmed, the crucial role of communities was amplified and several participants used the expression of investing in communities. Several participants also highlighted the spirit of solidarity and hospitality prevailing on the Continent. Such spirit is and should remain an asset.
The outcome of this symposium will feed in the AU Ministerial Conference of Ministers in charge of forced displacement scheduled for the first quarter of 2014.