IGAD policy framework on refugee protection: A regional commitment to safeguarding and integrating displacement-affected populations

  • 7 Dec 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Waceera Kabando

Today, more than ever, the world is witnessing a global refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions. Millions of people are forced to flee their homes every year, and many of them seek safety and protection within our borders. As a region, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is responsible for upholding our values and aiding and protecting those in need.

In summary, this Policy Framework on Refugee Protection is a consolidation of the key findings and recommendations that reflect the commitment of IGAD Member States to provide a haven for refugees, ensuring their access to essential services, and promoting their socio-economic integration and reintegration into host communities while recognizing their contributions.

This Policy Framework emanates from IGAD’s broader mandate to facilitate inter-state, regional and international cooperation in promoting social, economic, political, and cultural development. Articles 7 and 13 of the 1996 Agreement Establishing IGAD define the Aims, Objectives, and Areas of Cooperation. The agreement empowers the organisation to, among others, harmonise policies regarding trade, customs, transport, communications, agriculture, natural resources and environment, and promote free movement of goods, services, and people within the region. 

Specifically, Article 13 A (s) provides that one of the fundamental areas of cooperation in the IGAD region is to facilitate the repatriation and reintegration of refugees, returnees, displaced persons and demobilised soldiers in cooperation with relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations under the existing national, regional, and international instruments. The overall IGAD Migration and Forced displacement dynamics are addressed within the framework of the Regional Migration Policy Framework (RMPF) that is derived from the African Union Continental Framework adopted in Banjul in 2006. The RMPF was adopted by the IGAD Council of Ministers in 2012 and became IGAD’s primary policy reference on migration and forced displacement. The ultimate objective of the RMPF is to realize the well-being and protection of migrants and displaced populations in all IGAD Member States. 

It recommends several strategies and appropriate mechanisms for ensuring the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, addressing the root causes of refugee movements, strengthening the capacities of Member States, engaging with broad stakeholders and securing durable solutions. Time-bound Migration Action Plans are developed to implement the RMPF. Since 2017, IGAD Member States have spearheaded a comprehensive regional and ‘whole of society’ approach to enhance the protection and durable solutions for populations affected by displacement. This approach originated from the March 2017 IGAD Special Summit on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia. The summit recognized the regional nature of the impacts and solutions for displacement and mixed migration and underscored the need for a strengthened regional framework for integration and cooperation. 

The Nairobi Declaration and its Action Plan built on the commitments of the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It called for strengthened regional cooperation in addressing the impacts of displacement and expanding the search for solutions, including through the increased engagement of development actors. The commitments of the Nairobi Declaration have since been expanded to cover all populations of concern in the IGAD region and translated into Thematic Declarations and Plans of Action on Education, Health, Jobs, Livelihoods, and Self-reliance. 

Collectively, the Nairobi Declaration and its subsequent Thematic Declarations have established principles, and good practices, and affirmed IGAD Member States’ commitments to taking a common approach in supporting displacement-affected communities. In 2019, the IGAD Support Platform was launched at the first Global Refugee Forum to sustain the progress made in implementing the Nairobi Declaration and its subsequent Thematic Declarations and Plans of Action. The IGAD Support Platform galvanized commitments, mobilized additional support, including additional actors, and followed up on Member States commitment in forced displacement responses particularly in the education, livelihoods, and health sectors while strengthening the implementation of long-term solutions to the refugee situation in the IGAD region. The Support Platform’s flagship initiative was the Solutions Initiative for Sudan and South Sudan in October 2020, which built upon the Somali-focused situation of the Nairobi Process.

Furthermore, this Policy Framework is an offshoot of assessments and consultations that examined the various refugee management practices, laws, and policies, as well as the various challenges faced by the IGAD Member States in managing specific refugee situations focusing on access to territorial asylum, asylum procedures, access to essential services, socio-economic inclusion, social cohesion, and responsibility sharing. The consultations revealed that the Member States face similar challenges and experiences and highlighted the need for a regional approach. The assessments were also useful in documenting good practices, highlighting challenges, and shedding light on overarching issues that demand a regional approach. They effectively pinpointed gaps that must be addressed, forming the foundational groundwork for the development of this Policy Framework.


Sentiments attributed to Allan Mukuki and IGAD Policy Framework on Refugee Protection