Strengthening refugee space in Uganda - UNDP convenes dialogue with leaders of refugee hosting districts

May 27, 2017

Hon. Hilary Onek, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees makes opening remarks during the first ever dialogue between national and district leaders from Uganda’s 12 refugee hosting districts. Looking on is Ms. Rosa Malango - UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative (left) and Ms. Christine Guwatudde Kintu, the Permanent Secretary – OPM. The meeting was convened by the UNDP Uganda Country Office as part of its refugee support strategy. (Photo Credit: UN in Uganda 2017).

KAMPALA – Uganda shall not build walls to keep out refugees, Hon. Hilary Onek, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees has affirmed.

He made this affirmation during the opening of the first-ever dialogue between district and national leaders from Uganda’s 12 refugee hosting districts. These districts include: Adjumani, Arua, Hoima, Isingiro, Kampala, Kamwenge, Kiryandongo, Kyegegwa, Lamwo, Masindi, Moyo and Yumbe.

Uganda is now host to over 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers making it the largest refugee hosting country in Africa.    

The dialogue, which was convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Uganda in support of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) focused on strengthening partnerships in the implementation of Uganda’s refugee hosting model.

Underscoring the importance of the dialogue, Ms. Christine Guwatudde Kintu, the Permanent Secretary – OPM, said that Uganda had transitioned from a purely humanitarian approach to one that seeks inclusive development and is therefore seeking sustainable investments that benefit both refugees and the communities that host them.

Agreeing with her, Ms. Rosa Malango, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, highlighted the challenge the international community faces as it shifts from a traditional ‘care and maintenance’ approach to one the recognises the need for and investment in a development-centred approach, such as Uganda’s.

She applauded this development centred approach in which Uganda’s unique non-camp hosting model was grounded.  The model allows refugees to settle in villages, giving them freedom of movement, access social services and documentation as well as the right to work and establish businesses.

Ms Malango said UNDP is committed to supporting Government led efforts to find durable solutions as well as advance integration as it manages the refugee situation.

“It’s for this reason that we made the strategic decision to open an office in Bidi bidi Refugee Settlement, Yumbe district, the world’s largest refugee settlement,” Ms. Malango said.

She also said refugee hosting districts stand at the forefront of Uganda’s economic transformation, with clear investment opportunities available in renewable energy, climate smart agriculture and agri-business, value chain development, water management and roads.

Participants in the meeting who included Parliamentarians, elected and appointed district officials expressed concern over the growing number of refugees seeking protection in Uganda.

They called for provision of more employment opportunities for the host communities particularly in the management and delivery of services. They also emphasised the need to improve the infrastructure since it was serving more people than it had originally been planned for. The impact on the natural resources in the various localities also emerged as central issues.

Local leaders also called for better coordination and consultation between OPM, UNHCR and district administrations.

This dialogue was convened as part of UNDP Uganda’s efforts to support Government’s efforts in refugee hosting. Through it’s  ‘Emergency Response and Resilience Strategy for Refugees and Host Communities,’ UNDP will support both the emergency response needs of recently arrived refugees as well as the medium to long term interventions to support both refugees and their host communities. It will focus on economic stabilisation, prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in addition to improved service delivery and institutional effectiveness at both the national and districts levels.