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Helping Africa Help Refugees

Refugee management in Africa is hindered by scarce resources, social tensions, and cumbersome regulatory processes. Donors, international and regional organizations, and African governments must intensify their efforts to develop a rights-based refugee-management framework.

JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recorded a total of 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide in 2017, the highest number in decades. This figure included 25.4 million refugees, or 2.9 million more than in 2016, representing the largest-ever annual increase.

Contrary to popular perceptions in the Global North, 85% of these refugees are in developing countries, and four out of five remain in states that neighbor their own, according to UNHCR. This has prompted international efforts to promote a more equitable sharing of responsibility toward refugees, and to provide financial and other resources to developing countries that host them.

The UN General Assembly’s affirmation last December of a Global Compact on Refugees, with its much-needed call for shared responsibility for hosting refugees, marked a step in the right direction. But the compact is not legally binding and has no enforcement mechanism. This raises questions as to whether it can influence national governments and have any impact in addressing the growing global refugee crisis, especially given increasing worldwide hostility to accepting refugees.

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