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UoN & UNHCR Launch Africa's First Refugee Resource Centre at the Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library

The University of Nairobi hosted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees H.E Fillipo Grandi on the 24th of June 2024 at the Chandaria Auditorium for a high-level dialogue and the inauguration of the first of its kind Refugee Resource Centre in Africa at the Jomo Kenyatta Memorial Library. 

The Resource Centre is meant to serve as a hub for evidence-based research, data analytics, and advocacy on forced displacement, reflecting the university's mission and its pivotal role in addressing national and regional challenges as reiterated by the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Kiama. "Hosting the Refugee Resource Centre aligns perfectly with the University of Nairobi's mission to provide high-quality education and foster research to enhance the understanding of forced displacement through robust research and data analysis." 

The partnership by both UNHCR and the University of Nairobi bridges the gap between academic research and practical application, ensuring that studies on forced displacement are theoretical and grounded in real-world contexts. This alignment supports the university's vision of producing graduates who are not only knowledgeable but also equipped to address pressing societal issues.

 “As the leading university in Kenya, the University of Nairobi is well-positioned to influence policy and practice on forced displacement,” said Mr. Grandi. “This initiative will enhance the University's role as a key player in addressing one of our time's most pressing humanitarian issues."

The Centre will undertake a range of activities, including socioeconomic research on forced displacement, facilitating the use of and creating new pipelines for the microdata library, organizing policy dialogues, running a young leaders’ program, facilitating the selection of research topics for students to encourage evidence generation on forced displacement, and organizing an annual conference on the Shirika Plan. A new collaborative agreement was also signed between the University of Nairobi and UNHCR, to make the Refugee Resource Centre a center of excellence and a leading research lab in Kenya and beyond.

Following the launch, High Commissioner Grandi gave a public address on “Tackling forced displacement as a development challenge”, discussing how to empower displaced communities better and strengthen host countries, fostering a future where displacement does not hinder progress, but becomes a catalyst for positive change. 

Mr. Grandi emphasized that peace is the most fundamental and effective method to address forced displacement, surpassing any amount of humanitarian assistance. He advocated for close collaboration with developmental partners, the National Government, and its bodies to invest in including refugees and internally displaced people in national and local services. The High Commissioner also highlighted ongoing efforts on Refugee Integration in Kenya through the Shirika Plan, which will enable thousands of asylum seekers and refugees to gain legal documents, facilitating their total integration into Kenyan society

The lecturer is the third in a series of lectures by the High Commissioner on the global challenges of displacement of our time – including the need for a panoramic approach to mixed movements at the University of Melbourne in Australia last year, and addressing population flows in the Americas at Georgetown University in Washington DC earlier this month. 

Kenya's unique position as a major host for refugees and asylum seekers underscores the importance of these initiatives. With over 777,000 displaced individuals in the country, there is an urgent need for targeted support and resources. The University of Nairobi has engaged in refugee issues through research and academic programs. UoN experts and scholars have conducted extensive research on peacebuilding and conflict resolution, contributing to Comprehensive Refugee Response Frameworks that have informed government policies and regional peace talks. "Our academic contributions are not just theoretical; they have real-world impacts that improve the lives of displaced individuals," noted Professor Kiama.

The University of Nairobi offers special academic programs, such as the world's first Master of Education in Emergencies program, offered since 2010. The flagship program, led by Prof. Loise Gichuhi, builds core competencies for practitioners in Education in Emergencies (EiE). In 2021, the University developed a Diploma in Teacher Education in Education in Emergencies. The program offered to students in refugee camps virtually, ensures that education remains a beacon of hope even in the most challenging circumstances.

The University of Nairobi is also home to the Kenya Institute of Migration Studies (KIMS), a Regional Centre of Excellence for Migration Studies. Collaborating with renowned institutions like Maastricht University, KIMS creates a synergy of academic excellence and practical expertise, fueling meaningful dialogues and impactful research.