• Human Development

Opening Remarks by Mr. Lamin M. Manneh, UN RC, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2016

  • Nyakubahwa, The Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda and Our Guest of Honour,
  • Honourable Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs,
  • Hon Ministers and High Level Government Officials Here Present,
  • Honourable Members of Parliament,
  • The Lord Mayor of Kigali City, Provincial Governors and Mayors Here Present,
  • Excellency Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors and Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Cooperation Agencies,
  • Members from the NGO Community, Private Sector and the Media,
  • My Dear Brother and Colleague, Dr Saber Azam, Representative of UNHCR in Rwanda,
  • My Dear Colleagues, Heads of One UN Rwanda Agencies and all the Members of the Rwanda One UN Family Here Present,
  • The Representatives of the Refugee Communities,
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, All Protocols Observed.


MWIRIWE NEZA MWESE? Bonne Apres Midi a Tous et a Toute, Good Afternoon to You All.

Mbere na mbere mbanje kubashimira ko mwaahuumiye Kuri Uyumunsi

The Right Honourable Prime Minister, it is an honour and pleasure for me to deliver in your presence these opening remarks at the opening ceremony of this important and special Celebration of the World Refugee Day.

In this regard, I would like to sincerely thank and commend on behind of the One UN Rwanda Family the Government of Rwanda through you the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs for joining up with the UN Family in organizing this special event and for facilitating the bringing together of all the key stakeholders and actors across the country and abroad who are partnering with the Government in different ways in its humanitarian response, especially in the case of the refugees.

I would also like to seize this opportunity to express my special and sincere gratitude to you the Right Honourable Prime Minister for taking time off your very busy schedule to preside over this opening ceremony. Honourable PM, your presence here, and representing H.E. President Paul Kagame is attestation to the high priority that the Government of Rwanda accords to effective, efficient and humanly humanitarian responses, especially to the welfare and protection of refugees.

Nyakubakwa Right Honourable Prime Minister, allow me to also congratulate and commend the Hon Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and her team for the tremendous work they are doing being in directly coordinating the implementation of the Government’s humanitarian responses.

We celebrate the World Refugee Day each year. But this year’s is historic and special, as noted by Dr Azam in his intervention, and no doubt to be reiterated by the Hon Minister, MIDIMAR in her intervention shortly. This is because this year, the number of refugees Rwanda is hosting exceeds 160,000, from  Burundi and DRC, in particular, which constitutes the highest number of refugees case load in its history. We have additionally noted that this year also marks the 20 years since Rwanda has hosted refugees from Congo, and significantly, the United Nations and its Humanitarian Actors marked the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul from 23 to 24 May, which convened over 9,000 participants from 173 Member States, and where critical decisions were made to address the causes of global humanitarian challenges and more appropriate responses.

As most of you are no doubt aware, the scale of the current humanitarian challenge is unprecedented. The persisting crisis in the Middle East, especially the intensifying ones in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Yemen as well as Afghanistan are forcing unprecedented number of people from these countries to seek refuge abroad, especially in Europe. Globally the United Nations and its Humanitarian Actors support around 100 million people each year who have for one reason or the other been displaced from their original communities or homelands.

Demand for support is growing, but resources are limited. Closer to home, the Humanitarian demands for the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa exceeded $5 billion in 2015. Rwanda is one of the countries bearing the heaviest burden of these unprecedented refugee influxes. Today Rwanda is the most populated country per square kilometre by refugees in the World.  

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is for these reasons why we believe that under the Theme selected for the World Refugee Day this year, “ Refugees are people like anyone else, like you” is quite appropriate. Because of the mounting scale of current refugee crisis the old prejudices against them will no doubt be reinforced. But when we see Doctors, University Lecturers, prominent musicians, scientists, teachers etc fleeing from Syria, Iraq, Burndi and DRC, we cannot fail to be struck by the fact they are just all of us. And they deserve all the protection and support that could be provided to them.

In the wake of the persisting and intensifying humanitarian crisis in general and that of the refugees in particular, the theme selected by Rwanda for this year’s Wold Refugee Day Celebrations is also quite relevant and pertinent, which is finding durable solutions. The UN Secretary-General clearly made the point at the World Humanitarian Summit that there have been far- reaching changes over the past few years in the scale and length of say the refugee crises around the world. For instance, UNHCR estimates that as opposed to before, in most cases refugees tend stay in host countries for close to 20 years.

The key messages he therefore delivered include the following: the imperative for reducing vulnerability and managing risks; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian responses; strengthening the nexus of humanitarian responses with longer - term development efforts with more efforts in understanding the root causes of vulnerability. And importantly, it is about building more resilient communities and reducing the need for continued humanitarian response. All of this clearly speak to finding lasting durable solutions to the growing humanitarian challenges, notably refugee outflows.

Your Excellency Right Hourable Prime Minister, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me at this point to turn my attention to the United Nations Systems approach to supporting the government efforts to address the humanitarian challenge, and I would like to quote from the Report of the Secretary General for the World Humanitarian Summit 

’We must return our focus to the people at the center of these  crisis, moving beyond short-term supply-driven response efforts towards demand driven outcomes that reduce the need and vulnerability’’   

I believe that this is the right direction and ambition, but I ask myself how can we make it happen? In order to ensure the realization of this aspiration, the UN family in Rwanda has been supporting the humanitarian agenda in a much more coordinated manner than happens in many parts of the world. We have doing this under the UN Secretary General Reform Initiative Delivering as One. As part of the Reform agenda the UN Agencies in Rwanda are operating under the umbrella of one Plan that includes critical interventions both on humanitarian and development issues. Delivering as One has enabled agencies to optimize their capacities, resources and synergies to ensure sustainable interventions. This approach has yielded increased financial inflows, and intensified our search for more durable solutions for refugees in Rwanda. We are also seeing developmental benefits to the host communities arising from our refugee interventions, including: Education, Health and Water Supply. My colleague Dr, Azam, the Representative of UNHCR has elaborated on all this.

The United Nations sees the humanitarian challenge from a multi faceted angle, and as such, our efforts must focus on  multi-dimensional durable solutions including moving from humanization actions to sustainable livelihoods for refugees. To achieve this, we need to build and sustain peace and security within the region. And at this stage , allow me quote his Excellence Paul Kagame during his remarks on 24 February to the African Union on the signing ceremony of the peace, security, and cooperation framework for DRC and Region. 

‘’We are all here to pursue one objective: to see security, stability and peace emerge in DRC and our region. This Framework Agreement is an important step and opportunity in reaffirming our commitment to regional peace. I unreservedly welcome it.

‘’Second, the framework recognizes that a holistic approach that addresses the multi-faceted root causes is the only way to end instability’’

‘’At the heart of our efforts, we have to keep in mind the rights, interests and aspirations of the afflicted populations, caught up in the recurring waves of violence. These should not be sidelined in favour of remote and self-serving international political agendas masqueraded as justice or human rights’’.[END OF QUOTE]. 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

May I humbly remind us that the pursuit for durable solutions and sustained livelihoods can be achieved by working within the framework of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals the World Agreed in September 2015. The SDGs provide a universal and unique framework that brings Humanitarian and Development Actors to find sustained and lasting solutions to the growing humanitarian agenda. In the next couple of months, the United Nations in collaboration with the Government will commence the preparation of the next One UN Country Assistance Plan starting from 2018. This will be a great opportunity to reflect and deepen our interventions on the humanitarian agenda focusing on reintegration and sustained livelihood for peoples affected by conflicts and displaced.           

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Finally, please allow me to remind us on this occasion, the Secretary General Statement on 20 November 2015 in New York,

‘’No country alone can solve the problem that is inherently international. We will find answers through a collective push that transcends narrow, short-term interests’’. [END OF QUOTE]. 

In conclusion, kindly allow me Right Honourable Prime Minister to sincerely thank once again his Excellency President Paul Kagame for his leadership, steadfastness and courage in ensuring that Rwanda remains committed to the 1951 Refugee Convention and for his open arms policy to sisters and brothers fleeing from conflict in their countries and his strong spirit of protection of innocent civilians in zones of conflict. I would also like to thank the entire population for adhering to and putting into effect these principles espoused by President Kagame, and hence for their whole-herated support to the refugees and sacrifices they made in many instances.To the Government of Rwanda, I want assure you that the United Nations System stands shoulder to shoulder with you with in your efforts to support refugees. 

I would like to commend the Hon Minister of MIDIMAR for her strong leadership at the implementation level of the Government’s humanitarian response policies and strategies and to her staff for their competence and cooperation.

Let me also seize this opportunity to acknowledge the sheer dedication, competence and compassion of the One UN Humanitarian Team in Rwanda, under the direct leadership of UNHCR and WFP, but including UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, IOM, UNWOMEN, UNDP, UNAIDs, FAO.   

I cannot end my remarks without, expressing my gratitude to the organizers of this important event and for associating the One UN with it. I wish to thank the Government and all humanitarian and development actors present here for their continued partnership with the One UN. I have no doubt that our collective efforts will achieve the expected results.

Finally, my profound gratitude to the Right Honourable Prime Minister for taking the time to be with us here and for his personal commitment to effective but compassionate humanitarian responses.

Thank you all for your kind attention.

Turikumwe, Sibyo?


Thank you very much, Merci Beaucoup, Merci Beaucoup, Asante Sana.