The Executive Secretary of SADC, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, held a meeting with Director, Regional Bureau for Southern Africa of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Mr. Valetin Tapsoba, on 13th February 2020, at the SADC Secretariat Headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana. During the meeting, the two parties discussed regional cooperation and coordination mechanism to develop and strengthen the architecture and arrangements needed to operationalise the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) over the longer term. The two parties also discussed the outcomes of the recent Global Refugee Forum held from 17th to 18th December 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr. Tapsoba informed Her Excellency Dr. Tax that during the Global Refugee Forum, UNHCR received over 900 global pledges towards different Thematic Areas of the GCR. The pledges include financial and technical assistance, and land from voluntary contributions, with some specifically towards the eradication of statelessness, of which UNHCR received USD 2.2 billion from the World Bank, USD 2 billion from governments, and an additional USD 250 million from other donors. These pledges were made possible because of the GCR, which was signed in December 2018, and represents the political will and ambition of the international community, to strengthen cooperation and solidarity with refugees and affected host countries. He also indicated that from the pledges made, 87 were made by SADC Member States, which was the second highest pledges made to support refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people, and applauded SADC for the overwhelming response.
Mr. Tapsoba also extended the UNHCR’s support in the management of disasters as UNHCR has been doing globally. He cited UNHCR‘s involvement in the tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which affected the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2019. He said that his organisation was ready to assist in dealing with aftermaths of disasters, by linking Climate Change and its impact, to the Internally Displaced People and Refugees.
Her Excellency Dr. Tax thanked Mr. Tapsoba for the continued support to the SADC region, and for the UNHCR’s commitment towards addressing issues of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, as well as for the progress made towards the implementation of the Global Compact of Refugees. She highlighted that refugees and statelessness are challenges that manifests in various forms, and these issues needed to be addressed holistically. She assured the Director of SADC’s commitment to collaborate with UNHCR in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
Her Excellency Dr. Tax mentioned that SADC is currently in the process of operationalising its Regional Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy, which is expected to enhance coordinated interventions to disasters and, at the same, guide SADC Member States to invest in actions that would accelerate the achievement of sustainable resilience to disasters. Therefore, UNHCR’s willingness to collaborate with SADC on Climate Change and its impact on IDPs and Refugees presents an opportunity to strengthen partnership with International Cooperating Partners.
The two parties agreed to continue to collaborate and work together in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees and a Regional Action Plan for the SADC region, as part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two parties in December 2019.
Her Excellency Dr. Tax was accompanied by Ms Kealeboga Moruti, Acting Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, Mr. Alex Banda, Senior Expert (DRR), and Mr. Maxwell Mkumba, Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Executive Secretary.
Mr. Tapsoba was accompanied by Mr. Arvind Gupta, UNHCR Chief of Mission to Botswana, Ms. Emmanuelle Mitt, Senior Statelessness Officer for UNHCR Regional Bureau for Southern Africa and Ms. Elisa Furuta, the Executive Assistant for UNHCR Regional Bureau for Southern Africa.