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AU Summit 32 to focus refugees, displaced people, migrants as Egypt takes the wheel of AU

Storyline:National News, World

As part of the ongoing reform of the African Union (AU), there is a proposal to shift the portfolio for refugees and displaced people away from political affairs, where it is currently based. This restructuring coincides with the AU’s decision to designate 2019 as the ‘Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons

The issue is clearly a priority for the continental body, and the move sends a strong message that opposes the global trend of dealing with refugees and migrants as a political and security issue.

The plan is to shift the AU Commission’s Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons division from Political Affairs to a new department for health, humanitarian affairs and social development. The new department will replace the current Department of Social Affairs and is one of the six departments suggested by the reform team at the November 2018 AU summit.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is today expected to take the chairmanship of the African Union (AU).

As a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, and chair in 1964, 1989 and 1993, Egypt is not new to such important continental roles.

Besides Egypt’s priorities, several continental problems await the new chair. These are the Libyan crisis, terrorism in the Sahel, ongoing protests in Sudan, conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia, the impact of climate change, the management of the Nile, and border disputes.

In the run-up to the AU summit in Addis Ababa this week, the Egyptian foreign ministry has outlined six priority areas for their 2019 AU chairmanship: building bridges among Africa’s people; cooperating with partners; economic and regional integration; economic and social development; institutional and financial reform of the AU; and peace and security.

Africa hosts over one third of the world’s forcibly displaced people, including 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million internally displaced people