The 2020-2021 Regional Refugee Response Plan for the DRC situation is covering the inter-agency response in the countries of asylum for Congolese refugees neighbouring the DRC: Angola, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. By the end of 2020, RRRP partners aim to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection to 912,069 Congolese refugees.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises in Africa. As of the end of 2019, countries in the Southern and Great Lakes regions in Africa generously host some 905,573 Congolese refugees and asylum-seekers. The on-going armed conflicts across much of eastern DRC, as well as intercommunal violence continue to cause internal and external displacement of populations, tragic loss of human life and destruction of communities. Although a peaceful transition of power followed the presidential elections in December 2018, concerns remain over the deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation, mainly in the eastern part of the country.
The situation has become even more complex in recent years with ongoing displacement in parts of the DRC, while the government pursues efforts to promote returns for refugees, asylum-seekers and those who have been internally displaced. Recently displaced Congolese continue to arrive into neighbouring countries, requiring assistance and protection who have been in a protracted situation of forced displacement – many for over a decade. Given the constantly growing needs and increasing strain on resources in the host countries, the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) continues to be an essential tool to rally support and provide immediate humanitarian assistance and a strategic direction towards medium and long-term solutions in the countries of asylum for Congolese refugees neighbouring the DRC: Angola, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
UNHCR values the partnership of the agencies engaged in the DRC RRRP 2020-2021, and together we have developed interventions through close consultations with the affected populations and host governments in order to improve protection space for Congolese refugees and asylum-seekers, while ensuring there is preparedness in the event of new influxes. A key factor to mitigate dependency on humanitarian assistance is to foster and strengthen self-reliance in a conducive environment. This can be accomplished through education, skills training and supporting livelihood opportunities for the refugee and host communities. Mainstreaming access for Congolese refugees and asylum-seekers to government services will ensure much needed structures and resources are not devoted to creating parallel systems. Rather, services and programmes are strengthened for the benefit of everyone, adding to improved development and a shared social wellbeing. In addition, as refugees and host communities share the same land and resources, it is important to promote conservation activities that mitigate the impact that hosting refugees has on the environment.
UNHCR and RRRP partners urge States to provide favourable conditions towards integration, and we support efforts that promote viable integration. More refugees are considering repatriation from all countries in the region, and UNHCR is also ready to support where returns are entirely voluntary and come about through informed decisions and can be conducted in a safe and dignified manner. To this end we are engaging in tripartite agreements which take refugee concerns into consideration and promote the sustainability of returns. Resettlement must also remain an option for the most vulnerable, and we continue to seek the support of the international community to provide much needed space for these special cases.
Throughout the RRRP process, we have placed great importance on data and analysis in order to clearly articulate evidence-based needs of the Congolese refugees and align our responses with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This RRRP also follows pledges made during the first ever Global Refugee Forum (GRF) held in December 2019. The GRF pledges provide an opportunity to bring on board tradition and non-traditional partners as well as regional actors to strengthen the commitment to the DRC situation and to spark new pledges. Through this RRRP, let us renew our commitment to continue to work together in the pursuit of comprehensive solutions for Congolese refugees. .
Director, UNHCR Regional Bureau for Southern Africa