Food insecurity, civil conflict, and lack of economic opportunity have led to the displacement of thousands of North and Sub-Saharan Africans. As a result, an estimated half of all primary school-age refugee children are not in school, and many face sexual and gender based violence. Additionally, humanitarian aid, while undeniably important, can be misallocated and disrupt local markets, disincentivizing private suppliers. Poverty and lack of infrastructure in refugee dense areas prevents the fulfilment of basic needs and the contribution of refugees to their host communities.
For the last few decades, Botswana has been the recipient of a number of refugees from its neighboring countries, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have generously opened temporary camps and provided resources to those escaping crisis and/or persecution. However, being a stable, middle income nation, Botswana has lost much of its funding from humanitarian groups and organizations such as the UNHCR, making it difficult to sustain refugees as the country now must turn to its own coffers. Recently, the nation has drawn criticism for ending the refugee status of several refugee groups residing near its borders. However, Botswana notes that there is considerably less risk of persecution and conflict in these groups’ home countries, and at least one has a repatriation program in place.
Botswana believes that the first step to successfully sustaining refugees is documentation so that resources can be allocated, as well as facilitation of humanitarian aid through local markets. Furthermore, it is crucial that the UNHCR and other donors increase funding to host countries if they are to be expected to provide further support. As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates, humans must first have their basic needs of food, water, and safety met before they can reach their full potential. Education and support allows refugees to contribute to their community and build skills that can be integrated into any environment. However, this is only possible with adequate resources. At the same time, the delegation of Botswana emphasizes that the term refugee denotes a temporary status. Therefore, our ultimate goal is to support these refugees until they are in a position where that refugee status is no longer necessary.
At that point, Botswana believes there are three options: refugees can be locally integrated into the community through legal process, they can be resettled to another country, or they can be voluntarily repatriated back to their home country. Botswana views the final option of repatriation as the ideal solution, and proposes that once a standard or criteria have been met and the home country deemed acceptable, refugee status would end. As far as civil causes for displacement, Botswana believes that the best thing the UN can do is set an example of democracy and human rights while encouraging nations to advise each other.