Southern Africa: As the Refugee Convention Turns 70, the Plight of Millions of Africans Highlights the Challenges Ahead


Today, 85% of the world's refugees live in developing or the least developed countries. Patterns of displacement continue to evolve, driven by the interrelation of extreme poverty, the climate crisis and conflict. Lasting solutions are hard to find, making the work of the UN Refugee Agency even more pressing and complex.

Valentin Tapsoba is the UNHCR's regional director for southern Africa.

Today, 28 July 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, marks the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the international legislation that is the cornerstone of our mandate.

Seventy years ago, the agency began the work it continues today, to protect the lives and rights of refugees.

Asylum is a fundamental human right. The 1951 convention came into being in order to safeguard that right, for everyone, everywhere. In the context of continuing wars, conflict and persecution, and record levels of displacement, the convention and everything it stands for remain as relevant today as 70 years ago. Perhaps even more so, as the number of people forced to flee worldwide continues to grow year on year.

Almost since the ink dried, the 1951 convention has protected people forced to flee on almost...

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