SAFE HAVEN

Zambia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: RESETTLEMENT

With the world facing a mass population displacement crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since World War II, Zambia is becoming a somewhat unlikely torch-bearer in the global move to re-integrate millions of people of concern.

UNHCR figures state that of the 16.1 million refugees of concern around the world at the end of 2015, less than 1% were resettled. Of the world's nations currently receiving migrants, just 87 have established resettlement programs. Some call this subdued response a global failure to mitigate the devastating social and economic effects of mass displacement.

Championed for many years as a stronghold of peace in the southern African region, Zambia now looks to take on a new role, with an innovative integration policy that sets an example to other nations across the globe. It has long been a host to refugees from neighboring African states, including Angola, Rwanda, the DRC, Burundi, Mozambique, and Somali. Since the 1950s, the country has welcomed with open arms those seeking asylum from war-torn and economically challenged countries. Many of these early refugees have since received Zambian permits or married Zambian nationals and are bringing up their children side by side with Zambian families.

In recent years, successful integration has been facilitated by a three-year local integration program (2013-2016). Following an agreement struck up between the Zambian, Angolan, and Rwandan governments, displaced persons from these two countries were able to settle formally on Zambian soil and obtain Zambian residency permits. Under this regulation, 18,685 Angolans and some 4,000 Rwandans were given residence permits and at the end of November 2016, 841 plots of land had been allocated to Angolans. In 2016, the UNHCR Zambia was working with an operational budget of USD6.4 million. Of this, USD3.8 million was designated for local integration activities. The total contribution of Zambia to refugee resettlement has never actually been calculated; however, given that the project has been ongoing since 2013, with funds continually channeled towards equipping the areas with basic facilities, it is estimated to be considerable. Donations from the US government to help refugees in Zambia in 2015 totaled USD2.9 million, of which USD1.5 million was earmarked specifically for resettlement schemes. Other donors included Germany, which has been instrumental in the funding of borehole drilling in the areas, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and the Japanese Association of Aid and Relief. In December 2016 this program came to an end, replaced in 2017 by the long-term Sustainable Resettlement concept. Two main settlement areas, Mayukwayukwa and Meheba, were redesigned in line with this initiative: half of each area became a designated refugee camp, with plots of land available to any registered asylum seeker; and the other half, a designated resettlement scheme, home to both Zambians and former Angolan or Rwandan refugees who had and have applied for integration.

The quest for an effective method to enable the shift from humanitarian interventions to long-term sustainable development for dealing with cases of protracted displacement is longstanding. The Program of Sustainable Resettlement, jointly conceived and developed by the Zambian government and the United Nations in Zambia, can be viewed as a primary vehicle that points to the country's successful transition in its dealings with displaced people from humanitarian relief to a developmental approach. The program has the aim of both meeting the high ambitions and standards of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and also supporting the local integration of former Angolan and Rwandan refugees in Zambia into their new communities.

There are some similar programs being tested elsewhere in Africa, in Liberia and Tanzania for example; however, these do not have the same thorough application processes and long-term structures as Zambia's approach. In its infancy, Zambia's pilot program seeks further funding in order to be able to implement the final stages. Because of this, it is difficult to state the impact the program will have on the global displacement crisis, as well as on Zambia's long-term development and economic growth. However, it cannot be denied that well-planned integration of people is a step in the right direction toward boosting human capacity potential and the country's levels of productivity. What is more, the country's resettlement program, providing financing levels are reached so that the project can be seen through to conclusion, could be a worthwhile model for other nations worldwide seeking solutions to their respective refugee crises.