Filippo Grandi tells Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees greater efforts are needed to support refugee hosting countries and find peace in South Sudan.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today praised Uganda’s continued commitment to hosting refugees and called for greater global support for the country’s progressive policies for helping the forcibly displaced.

In his address to the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, held in the capital, Kampala, the High Commissioner said Uganda continues to show “a profound commitment to enabling refugees to pursue self-reliance and live in dignity while in exile.”

“Regrettably, the hospitality of host countries is not adequately matched by financial contributions.”

UNHCR Filippo Grandi (right) talks with South Sudanese refugees after their arrival at Imvepi settlement, Uganda.  © UNHCR/Rocco Nuri

The Summit was organized by the office of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, together with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. About 500 delegates attended, including heads of state and government, members of the diplomatic corps, UN agencies, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations.

The goal of the meeting is to give due recognition to Uganda’s generosity in hosting nearly 1.3 million refugees, and to call on the international community to do more.

The Secretary-General called on the international community to help Uganda shoulder the responsibility for so many refugees in the face of an emergency.

“Because I am educated, I do not define myself by the trauma, hardship and suffering that comes with being a refugee." Hindiyo, 17

In Uganda refugees are given land, allowed to work, own businesses and move freely. They are also integrated into government services like health care and education.

“International solidarity is not just a matter of solidarity. It is a matter of justice," Guterres said.

Seventeen-year-old Somali refugee Hindiyo Abdulkadir fled to Uganda 10 years ago. Speaking in English, she gave a powerful testimony about how the country’s policies have changed her life and given her a future.

“Because of my education I have the confidence to speak before you today, in a language that I learned in Uganda,” she said. “Because I am educated, I do not define myself by the trauma, hardship and suffering that comes with being a refugee,” she added.

But with more than half a million refugees from South Sudan crossing into Uganda over the last year, and more arriving everyday, the country’s resources are strained.

“Regrettably, the hospitality of host countries is not adequately matched by financial contributions,” said Grandi, citing the fact that the current humanitarian appeal for South Sudanese refugees is funded at only 16 per cent.

“Disturbing shortfalls are emerging in critical areas such as food, shelter and education,” he added.

Grandi also stressed that the summit is an opportunity to encourage Uganda and the world to find innovative responses to addressing refugee crises.

Uganda was one of the first countries to sign onto last year’s New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants. Member states committed to developing a more comprehensive response to assisting refugees, to include humanitarian and development organizations, the private sector, host countries and the refugees themselves.

The High Commissioner said support for Uganda, which already maintained an inclusive refugee policy, is critical to “show that this model can work.” He said the world should not take Uganda’s generosity for granted “but instead, reinforce and nurture it, so that it may continue to flourish.”

By the conclusion of the summit more than US$358 million in support of Uganda was pledged.

But the High Commissioner, the Secretary-General and all speakers emphasized that what refugees need most is peace.

“I appeal to the leaders of South Sudan, to States in the region, and to the international community at large, to engage in more decisive and inclusive peace efforts,” Grandi said.

“The men, women and children crossing into exile from South Sudan and from other countries today have the right to hope for a better future - one in which they can eventually return home, in safety and dignity.”

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