World Refugee Day Statement by UN RC - 20 June 2020
20 June 2020
Going back to the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day, I am pleased to note the domestic theme that Zambia has chosen which is “Support Refugee Education”.
STATEMENT BY DR. COUMBA MAR GADIO, UNITED NATIONS ZAMBIA RESIDENT COORDINATOR
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2020 WORLD REFUGEE DAY 20 JUNE 2020
Guest of Honour, the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Stephen Kampyongo, MP
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Dr. Liya Mutale
Permanent Secretaries responsible for General and Higher Education
Senior government Officials
The Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Abdon Mawere
My colleague, Ms. Pierrine Aylara, the UNHCR Representative
Other members of the United Nations Country Team
Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Refugees and former refugees,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to represent the UN family in Zambia as we celebrate the 2020 World Refugee Day. As has already been highlighted, the global theme for this year’s celebration is “Everyone can make a difference, Every Action Counts”.
Embedded in this theme, is the desire and aspiration of the United Nations and its member states to respect the basic human rights and ensure that every human being, especially the most vulnerable enjoy these rights. Asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons and refugees are among the most vulnerable members of our society.
The United Nations in Zambia, and World over, recognizes and is committed to ensuring that these vulnerable people attain durable legal status that ensures national protection of their rights, responsibilities and that they have access national services and systems as those enjoyed by host community members and co-exist and live peacefully, without any discrimination. They, at a minimum, should enjoy the same standards of treatment enjoyed by other foreign nationals in each country and, in many cases, the same treatment as nationals.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is for this reason that the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol were adopted. It is gratifying to note that Zambia is not only a signatory to the convention and the protocol but a country that has been exemplary in accepting, providing a home and supporting asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable people. Zambia has provided land to refugees and former refugees, supported the provision of health, education as well as water and sanitation services, among other many things for many years. Zambia has also undertaken policy and legal reforms aimed at ensuring that asylum seekers and refugees increasingly enjoy their rights, including the enactment of the Refugees Act of 2017. The United Nations in Zambia recognizes and applauds these wonderful strides that the country has made.
At the same time, I take this opportunity to call on the Government of the Republic of Zambia to continue undertaking policies and legal reforms to ensure asylum seekers and refugees fully enjoy their rights, become self-reliant and contribute to the country’s development. We need to remember that asylum seekers and refugees come with skills that can be of benefit to host countries. Critical to this effort, is the speedy relaxing or indeed lifting of the existing reservations to the provisions of the 1967 Convention.
Honourable Minister, lifting these reservations will not only empower refugees to be self-reliant and enjoy more rights but will also reduce their dependence on government and enhance their contribution to the development of Zambia. It is our hope, therefore, that the revised Refugee policy, whose development process has just commenced, will ensure that some of these reservations are addressed and create a stronger foundation for the enjoyment of refugee rights.
Going back to the theme of this year’s World Refugee Day, I am pleased to note the domestic theme that Zambia has chosen which is “Support Refugee Education”. I must hasten to state that the right to education is one of the rights espoused in the 1951 convention. The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda places high premium on education by recognising its significance in advancing other goals including Health and well-being (SDG 3), Gender equality (SDG 5), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 4), Responsible consumption and growth (SDG 12) and Climate change mitigation (SDG 13).
Refugees and their hosts continue to face many challenges and barriers in accessing education. Some of the challenges include inadequate educational infrastructure in refugee settlements, inability to pay school and user-fees and school uniforms, lack of scholarships particularly for tertiary education, requirement for study permits and refugees’ inability to afford them. Other challenges are lack of electricity in settlements and schools which adversely affects studying and hinders provision of services hinged on electricity such as ICTs and laboratory services, inadequate qualified teachers, and inadequate and poor Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities, among others. Some of the schools in refugee settlements, particularly in Mantapala, remain ungazetted and have no payroll management and establishment control (PMEC) system numbers, thus impacting negatively on availability of qualified teachers and delivery of quality education. The UN acknowledges government’s commitment towards addressing these challenges.
Honourable Minister, the United Nations in Zambia acknowledges the support the Government is giving towards furthering refugee education, which includes providing qualified government-remunerated teachers in schools based in refugee settlements.
As I close, let me note that the pledge made by the Zambian government towards advancing refugee education at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum demonstrates this commitment. The United Nations will support the Zambian Government in its efforts to actualize the pledges made on education and other areas.
We look forward to the full integration of refugees in national systems for indeed “Everyone Counts”.