On the heels of significant funding gap, countries to be urged to increase assistance to support Rohingyas, host communities
Against the backdrop of a significant funding gap in the global response this year, a virtual international donor conference will be held on Thursday, aimed at promoting urgent support for the persecuted Rohingyas and the host communities.
The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will co-host the event, titled “Conference on Sustaining Support for the Rohingya Refugee Response.”
There is a significant funding gap in the international response to the crisis this year, with contributions to date covering less than half of what is needed.
Myanmar and India have been invited to the conference that has four broad objectives -- addressing the root causes, maintaining humanitarian assistance, expanding opportunities and investing in host communities.
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At the virtual conference, which will run from 6pm to 8:30pm Bangladesh time, the co-hosts will urge countries to increase assistance for Rohingya refugees, host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar, more than three years since the latest phase of the crisis began in August 2017.
The UN has appealed for more than $1 billion in aid to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year, but so far less than half has been contributed.
This leaves a significant funding gap, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the latest displacement of the Rohingyas during the exodus from Myanmar in August 2017, the overwhelming majority have been hosted in camps in Bangladesh.
There are currently 860,000 Rohingya in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement, while other countries in the region host up to an additional 150,000 Rohingya refugees. An estimated 600,000 live in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The conference will also aim to raise urgently needed funds to help vulnerable displaced Rohingyas living in and outside of their native Myanmar. The funds raised are also expected to support critical services in host communities throughout South and Southeast Asia.
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The event will be an opportunity for the co-hosts to reiterate that any sustainable solution to this crisis must include the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and other displaced people to their homes or to a place of their choosing.
In this respect, the co-hosts will repeat the UN secretary general’s call for a global ceasefire and the cessation of fighting to enable safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all communities in need of assistance.
Bangladesh, the host to the largest number of Rohingyas, will participate in the event, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday.
“Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen will take part in the event. If the state minister for foreign affairs can manage time, he will also participate,” he said.
“I cannot take part due to a pre-scheduled program that clashes with the conference time,” he added.
About the event, the foreign minister said: “It is a good one. The conference will provide us with the opportunity to raise the crisis with the international community. Our emphasis will be on safe and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine as soon as possible.
“We do hope the international community will exert adequate pressure to make it happen. At the same time, the financial needs of the Rohingyas will be met without any interruption,” he said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said: “The United States is proud to stand with the UK, the EU, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as partners in leading this call to sustain the international crisis response to assist Rohingya refugees and other displaced people, as well as strengthen investment in affected host communities.
“As the world’s most generous donor, we are a catalyst for the international humanitarian response and call on others to contribute to this cause – both longstanding partners as well as new and aspiring donors,” he said.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The Rohingya people have faced horrific brutality and were forced to flee their homes in the worst circumstances imaginable. We have taken action against the architects of this systemic violence, including through sanctions, and we will continue to hold those responsible to account.
“The UK has also been a leading donor since 2017 to alleviate humanitarian suffering of the Rohingya. The world must wake up to the severity of their plight and come together now to save lives,” he said.
Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner for crisis management, said: “The Rohingya refugees have the continued full support from the EU at this critical time. Humanitarian partner organizations on the ground and host communities have responded with true solidarity to the plight of the Rohingya refugees. We are committed to step up our support to pledge further humanitarian, development and stabilization assistance. The international community must strengthen its shared efforts towards reaching a sustainable solution – one that cultivates conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees.”
UNHCR Filippo Grandi said: “Solidarity with the Rohingya people means more than just meeting their basic needs. Refugees, like everyone else, have a right to a life of dignity and the chance to build a safe and stable future.”
Myanmar and India invited to the conference
India and Myanmar have also been invited to the conference.
Despite being a regional economic and regional power, there is a perception among most of the people of the country that India, an ally to Myanmar, has done virtually nothing to help Bangladesh in solving the crisis.
The recent Indian decision to provide Myanmar with a submarine has simply fuelled the perception.
It is now to be seen what role the second largest populated country in the world plays in the conference.
“It’s a good thing that Myanmar has been invited,” Foreign Minister Dr Momen told this correspondent about Myanmar’s participation.
“Through this, Myanmar will come under some kind of accountability for its actions that have created the crisis,” he said.
Funding gap – Only 48.7% of $1.06 billion met so far
The funding gap looks ominous as only 48.7% out of $1.06 billion under the 2020 joint response plan (JRP) has so far been met, with only little over two months to go.
The significant funding gap is affecting the important life-saving services for the Rohingyas.
The initial JRP was worth $877 million to respond to the needs of approximately 855,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, and over 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis in the communities generously hosting them.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19, a necessity was felt to update the JRP to fight the virus in order to protect the Rohingyas living in 34 congested camps and the vulnerable host communities. Therefore, an addendum was then added to the JRP to make it worth $1.06 billion from $877 million.
The updated JRP will enable to provide Covid-19 related services to 509,000 people from Cox’s Bazar, in addition to 444,000 people from the host communities included in the original JRP.