Chad-Sudan Border Refugees
ANNA BJERDE ( managing Director of Operation, World Bank):
We’ve had quite a 48 hours together here in chat. And I want to also really thank you for extending this invitation to join you. Of course, we went to visit the Chad Sudan border and visited the entry point of refugees, and also camps for refugees. And I listened to you and I heard you express quite a bit of concern about this particular refugee crisis. Can you help put it into context, what is so concerning about this particular crisis, from all your years of experience? What stands out about this one.
FILIPPO GRANDI ( United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees):so many things are concerning. First and foremost, its size, volume, Sudan is a big country. It’s a country at the moment affected by, as we know, by terrible fighting, and fighting that is affecting civilians, very severely, in Khartoum, in Darfur, and other places in the country. And this has pushed a huge number of people out of their homes, we estimate that about up to 4 million people are freshly displaced inside the country, and 1 million refugees have gone out of the country. Now this is Ukraine volume. This is that type of refugee crisis. Although, and this is another big problem. It’s much less talked about. And I think that the fact that we’re here together in chat is meaningful, as you said, because it character, it’s, it’s the characteristic of this emergency, especially its refugee dimension, people are fleeing the country, and are pouring into countries that have challenges of their own. Egypt, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic here in chat, as you know, this is already a very fragile environment with huge development challenges, climate change, weak capacity of the government to implement project to serve its own population, security challenges. You name it. 400,000 more refugees, which is what we have seen since the beginning of the crisis is a very big burden for one of the poorest countries in the world. And they add themselves to hundreds of 1000s that were already here from previous crisis. So today, Chad has 1 million refugees, which means that in this country in chat, one person in 17 is a refugee.
ANNA BJERDE: That is an impressive perspective, when you put it like that one out of 17, there are so many refugees coming in, and the host, communities are absorbing, of course, this influx. And this is also why it’s so important the way we work that we focus both on the host community and the refugees. We’ve partnered in a number of places around the world. Why is it important to you do your work that we have this partnership? How does it work?
FILIPPO GRANDI : I think you are right, what is happening here in Chad is a good, good example to explain why it is important. So you have an enormous mass of people coming across the border. And they carry literally with them humanitarian challenges, hunger, wounded people, the risk of epidemics, all of this needs to be countered quickly by humanitarian action, which by the way, is not sufficiently supported. So we really need more traditional humanitarian contributions to sustain the enormity of this humanitarian operation. But they come into a very poor part of a country with fewer resources, where local communities already have challenges of their own. And to avoid that everybody somehow precipitates into a humanitarian crisis. It is important from the very beginning of such a situation to invest, let’s say in the medium term, which means building schools that can be shared by local community and refugees, strengthening the health system, and I would say perhaps the most important, giving everybody, everybody economic opportunities, and we’ve spoken about investing in agriculture, in livestock projects, and other forms of livelihoods. This is very, very important because we must also not forget that especially into His world humanitarian assistance is short lived, you can’t sustain it at high level in situations that often are very protracted. So it’s important to invest in the resilience of those affected by the crisis, so that we don’t cause another crisis further down the line. So I think that actually, what we have started doing in many parts of the world a lot in Africa, is extremely important to try to bridge that gap. This is what many people call the Nexus, the humanitarian development, where we have to overcome a lot of obstacles, because the systems are not always designed in this manner.
ANNA BJERDE:I think that was the clearest explanation I’ve had when people try to get me to explain the difference between humanitarian and development. The fact is, they go together in difficult situations like this, why is it important that the World Bank doesn’t wait until the most conflict affected phase is over? And I think it is because we care ultimately about poverty reduction. And if we don’t act early, we’re actually eroding development gains. We’re rolling institutional capacity, which is already often weak. And we’re putting people in more difficult circumstances, which makes it harder to lift them up later on. So so I’m very much with you on this. We met many people yesterday. And maybe that’s the best part of also doing this visit—is there any conversation or any interaction that really stood out for you?
FILIPPO GRANDI :I hope you agree that perhaps the highlight of the day was when we met a group of women refugees. Now, I say highlight, but it was a somber meeting. It was the highlight because I think it was the most meaningful moment in which I think we could almost touch physically, the suffering of the people, the reasons that have pushed them across the border. It was a group of well educated women, that had to leave behind everything simply because they couldn’t withstand any more the threat of violence. And when we say violence, we see real violence. People killed people wounded people, women in particular rate, they spoke about that, quite frankly, they spoke about their loss of hope, there fear that prompted them to come across with many, many challenges linked to that many of them came alone, or groups of women. So their exposure continues across the flight and into exile. So they’re there. At the same time, I think that we felt, correct me if I’m wrong, but we felt their extreme resilience. They were all talking also about the future about wanting to continue their studies. I was wanting to work to contribute, even here in chat. So I think it was sobering and inspiring. At the same time. This happens to me when I visit refugee situations. And may I just add one more point, the resilience of these women that we met yesterday. The resilience of refugees in general, is also a reason why interventions like the ones we’re planning here are important, because they’re not simply life saving. They’re also an investment in people’s future. And its support to their capacity to continue to hope.
ANNA BJERDE: I couldn’t agree more. And I’ll add that I couldn’t help but thinking when I was listening to particularly the women who said, We want to continue our education, and we want to seek jobs we want to work. They did not envisage that in Sudan. They envisage that in Chad and potentially elsewhere, and I couldn’t help but to think about some of the work that we’ve been also been doing in the World Bank looking at migration and refugees, and the fact that we have to think about it in an integrative manner, that many times, migrants, refugees actually become part of the engine of development in a country where they have now gone, so I couldn’t help but to think some of the skills and aspirations and hope that these women brought could also eventually help chat.
FILIPPO GRANDI : And your recent reporting and reflection reflections on what you just said, are very important, because we’re fortunate here in in chat. Amidst all the difficulties, let’s not forget that this is an exceptionally welcoming country. Chad has equipped itself with legislative tools that are very advanced in terms of how refugees are received, how displacement is handled, which means that for them it’s deliberate choice is not just By chance is not a passive attitude. So that needs to be supported. Because this is what allows us to invest in the future of these people. And it allows, even more importantly, I would say, these people to have a space to contribute back, they are employing, as we heard yesterday, health workers from within the refugees, they’re looking for teachers, to staff, the schools. This is this is for a country with so few resources. This is an example to so many other countries that have many more resources, but where the narrative is still, they’re a burden. They are a threat, they shouldn’t come here.
One final question. And today, we actually made an announcement that we will augment our program in Chad, by $314 million, which comes on top of about $2 billion already existing in our program plus for the communities and the refugees that need the support. Now, you know, agriculture is so important food security has come up over and over again. And also basic social infrastructure like the hospital, the clinics, the schools, we saw, that’s what we will do next, can you just share with me and the audience of talking development, what comes next for UNHCR here in chat?
ANNA BJERDE: One final question. And today, we actually made an announcement that we will augment our program in Chad, by $314 million, which comes on top of about $2 billion already existing in our program plus for the communities and the refugees that need the support. Now, you know, agriculture is so important food security has come up over and over again. And also basic social infrastructure like the hospital, the clinics, the schools, we saw, that’s what we will do next, can you just share with me and the audience of talking development, what comes next for UNHCR here in chat?
FILIPPO GRANDI : Well, we will have to, unfortunately, continue to provide life saving services to the refugee population. And by the way, a lot of that to the local population as well. That effort will only ends once this big crisis is over. And we have no guarantee that it is over anytime soon. So for us, that is a priority. But if through this joint work this partnership here with the World Bank, and maybe other development institutions, if they follow your example, if through those partnerships, we can be more sure more assured that the medium term is taken care of the education part, the livelihoods part, the health part, then we can concentrate on what we’re better at life saving protection work, identifying groups at risk negotiating with the government, resettlement to third countries, this is really what we should focus on. But often we are pulled in all directions because there is no development alternative or no development segue to what we’re doing. So I really look at Chad as a place where we can do more of what we have already done in other countries, but maybe more effectively, more rapidly in a manner that is really can really function as a very innovative precedents precedent of how the most important development organization in the world and one of the most humanitarian organizations of the world can work together.
Wonderful. Philippa, thank you so much. It was really a pleasure and thank you for being on the show. Thank you. Thanks a lot.