2019-2020 Uganda Refugee Response Plan | Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission

Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Colette Marcellin

Launch of the 2019-2020 Uganda Refugee Response Plan

Tuesday, May 28, 2019, 9:30 AM

Office of the Prime Minister Office Building, Kampala

  • Ministers
  • UN Resident Coordinator Rosa Malango
  • Ladies and Gentlemen,
  • All protocols observed.

Good morning everyone.  It is an honor to be here with all of you for the launch of the 2019-2020 Uganda Refugee Response Plan.  This event supports Uganda as the host to the largest refugee caseload in Africa.  Our coordination throughout the interagency and developing the financial resources necessary to provide emergency responders with what they need to do their jobs and save lives is our primary purpose today.

While we are here today to highlight the many partners whose work makes up this Plan, we must first acknowledge Uganda’s exemplary policies hosting refugees.  Uganda’s open door and settlement policies are rightly lauded the world over.  As protection space shrinks in some countries in the face of an unprecedented number of displaced persons, the welcoming example here is all the more important.  Uganda is also the global leader in implementing the still new Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  The “CRRF” -as it is called- is pushing all of us to find new and better ways of doing things.

The U.S. Government is also doing its part.  We provided over $138 million in humanitarian assistance to Uganda’s refugee response in our 2018 fiscal year, making us the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance in supporting refugees in Uganda.  This included over $94 million in funding to the World Food Program for refugee assistance, as well as nearly $44 million to UNHCR, IOM, and NGOs for multi-sectoral, life-saving assistance in Uganda.  Our development experts are also pivoting their activities to include refugee beneficiaries and host communities in development projects, which is in line with the Government’s inclusion of refugees in its national development plans.

2018 and the start of 2019 were challenging in many ways for donors, NGOs, international organizations, and the Government of Uganda alike.  Since late 2017, allegations of ongoing fraud and mismanagement plagued the refugee response in Uganda.  As the largest humanitarian and development donor in Uganda, we demand transparency and accountability from those receiving funds on the part of our taxpayers.  This includes UNHCR and other UN agencies, partners in the Government of Uganda, and NGOs.  I am happy to say that we are currently finalizing the last steps of a Joint Plan of Action (JPA) for Promoting Transparency and Accountability in Uganda’s Refugee Response.  In the face of a loss of public confidence in the refugee response, this JPA is a critical step to restoring faith and accountability, agreed upon by all stakeholders.  Even as the JPA comes to a close, we are discussing follow-on arrangements to manage risk and ensure accountability going forward.

The U.S. approach is two-fold.  On one hand, we will continue to demand transparency and accountability from the Government of Uganda and institutions receiving funds on the part of United States taxpayers.  At the same time, it is our duty to find ways to continue financing life-saving, emergency assistance for refugees.  Our demand for accountability is unwavering.  We will not turn our back on the growing number of refugees in Uganda in need of life-saving assistance.

Because of these challenges, we welcome the Uganda RRP being launched here today.  A better-coordinated refugee response is a more accountable and fraud-free refugee response.  It is also a more effective response that meets the needs of refugees and the Ugandan host communities alike.

The RRP also highlights the financial needs of the refugee response.  Underfunding for the response – be it funding to international organizations, NGOs, or government partners – has a direct impact on the range, quality, and management of life-saving services.  It can also lead to more severe risks, including increased protection risks from beneficiaries resorting to dangerous survival strategies, and an increased risk of conflict and instability.  We want to maintain peaceful coexistence between refugees and their neighbors, protect the environment in refugee hosting areas, and bring tangible dividends to local communities who are hosting refugees.  But this is all compromised in a severely under-resourced operation.

So as I say thank you to OPM and UNHCR for organizing today’s event, I hope we will all be reassured that the emergency, life-saving response for refugees is being well planned and coordinated.  This Plan that we officially launch today is our tool as we engage our governments on funding for Uganda, and it is also a reminder of the financial constraints facing the 110 partners whose work is reflected in it.  Finally, I hope we leave this event today reminded of the continuing, and in fact growing, needs of people in Uganda finding refuge from war and persecution, and the need for all of us to work together on their behalf.

Thank you.