“The Establishment of the Ethiopian Network of Academics on Forced Displacement”

Addis Ababa University (AAU) School of Law facilitated a Conference on the establishment of the Ethiopian Network of Academics on Forced Displacement at Mandella Hall of the University, Main Campus, on the 2nd of December 2023.

According to the information from the Conference, the Network intends to work on teaching and research for rights and welfare of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless persons.

Keynote speech, background of the Network regarding the establishment and its goals, paper presentations, scholarly commentaries as well as mass views and discussions were reflected at the Conference.

Mrs. Leslie Esther Velez, the Assistant Representative-Protection from United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in her keynote speech stated that persecution, conflict, violence, violation of human rights and miss distributed public order are the primary push factors for forced displacement.

According to Leslie, long period of draught and other natural phenomena caused by climate change are also additional causes of forced displacement pushing people out of their homes and facing them to complicated challenges.

She further stated that the end of 2022 UNHCR new statistics report indicated that there were 105 million people who had been forcefully displaced globally. “Ethiopia is one of the countries that have been mostly affected by forced displacement, especially in 2022 with an estimation of 4.3 million IDPs were registered besides to close one million refugees from different countries residing in it,” she added.

In her view of the importance of establishing the Network, Leslie said that the world and the academia cannot be underscored enough considering the growing IDP and refugee population in Ethiopia as well as the complexity of the protection challenges. Ethiopia has a strong history of leadership based on its experiences with forced displacement, she intensified.

In liaison with this, she reflected that the reliance on more engagement of the academics can easily facilitate teaching, research and community outreach, truly the academia being the backbone of future change and future response for forced displacement context to inform responses.

Mrs. Leslie mentioned that Ethiopia having a rich experience on refugee and forced displacement cases, the need to have the Ethiopian Academic Network with an ambition to re-drive the thinking with research, the Conference will be a millstone to launch the Network and to embrace the efforts, and the UNHCR will be with it at every step all the way through.

Mrs. Leslie finally confirmed that the Government of Ethiopia, UNHCR and other humanitarian actors, working on displacement issue, will continue to do their level best to respond to the needs of the forcibly displaced people in Ethiopia.

Papers were presented on the “Background of the Establishment and Goals of the Ethiopian Academic Network on Forced Displacement” as well as “Academic Network and the Rights and Welfare of Refugees” by Yonas Birmeta (PhD), Academic Advisor; and “Access to Justice for Refugees in Ethiopia and the Role of Academic Institutions” by Mr. Daniel Yirga, Human Rights Watch Expert from UNHCR.

Photo: Fikremariam Beyene

Editor: Abraham Girmay