The newly appointed Regional Director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Southern Africa, Mr. Valentin Tapsoba presented his Letters of Credence to SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, on May 15, 2019 in Gaborone.
Mr. Tapsoba informed H.E. Dr. Tax about the UN Secretary General's decision to decentralize the five Bureaus of the UNHCR to the respective five regions effective 1st January 2020, a move that aims to bring UNHCR closer to its potential beneficiaries and stakeholders in the regions. On the same note, he announced that the Southern Africa Bureau would be based in Pretoria, South Africa, covering Southern African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo, Brazzaville.
In recalling the devastating impacts of tropical Cyclone Idai and Kenneth that hit the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa in recent months, the Regional Director stated that the UNHCR has the capacity and willingness to work jointly with SADC in the areas of disaster risk reduction and emergency response. He mentioned that UNHCR has in the past helped other Regional Economic Communities, which were hard hit by natural disasters.
Mr. Tapsoba further shared information on the decision of the World Bank through the International Development Association (IDA), to avail two billion (USD2.0 billion) dollars for countries that host more than 25 000 and above, in the form of concessional loans and grants.
H.E. Dr. Tax welcomed the UNHCR Regional Director to SADC and congratulated him for his appointment, and assured him of the SADC support. She also thanked him for presenting his credentials, and assured Mr. Tapsoba that the Secretariat values the existing cordial relations and cooperation between SADC and UNHCR, and welcomed the reconfiguration and decentralization of the UNHCR Bureaus to bring them closer to the regions. She also informed the Regional Director that in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, the President of the Republic of Namibia H.E Mr. Hage Geingob, and SADC Chairperson, launched the SADC Humanitarian Appeal on 11th April 2019, in Windhoek, Namibia, in order to assist the three affected Member States, and expressed her gratitude for all the support rendered by the UN Agencies. She further expressed SADC’s desire to see immediate collaborative efforts with the UNHCR towards operationalization of the SADC Disaster Response Fund, implementation of the Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy and the Disaster Recovery and Response Plan, and enhance the rapid response Capacity.
The Executive Secretary of SADC also thanked the Regional Director for sharing information on the decision by the World Bank to avail US$2.0billion to support refugee hosting countries, and undertook to share the information with SADC Member States.
The two Parties committed to work together and agreed to finalise the review of the existing Memorandum of Understanding between SADC and UNHCR to be signed by December 2019, ahead of the Global Forum for refugees to be held in Geneva on 17th and 18th December 2019.
The Executive Secretary was accompanied by Ambassador Joseph Nourrice, Deputy Executive Secretary–Corporate Affairs; Mr. Mubita Luwabelwa, Director of Policy Planning and Resources Mobilisation, Mr. Habib Kambanga, Head of the Regional Early Warning Centre representing the Director of Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Affairs, and Mr. Duncan Samikwa, Senior Programme Officer for Food Security and Agriculture, representing the Director of Food Agriculture and Natural Resources. The UNHCR Regional Director was accompanied by the Chief of Mission of UNHCR to Botswana, Mr. Arvind Gupta.