915,073 (UNHCR, Apr. 2018)
Number of refugees
1,743,586 (DTM/IOM)
Number of IDPs
104,957.438 (WPP 2017)
0,448 (UNDP)
Human development index
8,168% (World Bank)
GDP growth
5,4% (World Bank)
Unemployment rate
23,4% (UNDP)
Poverty rate



Ethiopia is host to the second largest refugee population in Africa, with 909,301 refugees from 19 countries, the majority of whom come from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan [1]. Most refugees in Ethiopia reside in Gambella which is part of the four “Emerging Regions” [2] that are the country’s least developed regions, characterized by harsh weather conditions, poor infrastructure, low capacity of local government, high level of poverty and very poor development indicators, as well as Tigray Regional State. Many parts of the four regions are inaccessible with poor or no roads; and the arid environment in Afar and Somali regions in particular, marked by small and scattered nomadic populations, make it more challenging to provide services.

Following the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants by all UN Member States in September 2016, Ethiopia became one of the first countries to apply the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in February 2017. The announcement was quickly supported by a joint World Bank-UNHCR mission to consider support to refugee and host communities under the IDA-18 refugee sub-window. A road map for implementation has been finalized and the CRRF was officially launched in Ethiopia on 28 November 2017.

Government pledges towards a more comprehensive response

On 20 September 2016, one day after the adoption of the New York Declaration, Ethiopia co-hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York. The Government of Ethiopia made the following nine pledges to improve the lives of refugees: [3]

  1. To expand the “out-of-camp” policy to benefit 10% of the current total refugee population;
  2. To provide work permits to refugees and those with permanent residence ID:
  3. To provide work permits to refugees in the areas permitted for foreign workers;
  4. To increase enrolment of refugee children in preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, without discrimination and within available resources;
  5. To make 10,000 hectares of irrigable land available, to enable 20,000 refugees and host community households (100,000 people) to grow crops;
  6. To allow local integration for refugees who have lived in Ethiopia for over 20 years;
  7. To work with international partners to build industrial parks to employ up to 100,000 individuals, with 30% of the jobs reserved for refugees;
  8. To expand and enhance basic and essential social services for refugees; and
  9. To provide other benefits, such as issuance of birth certificates to refugee children born in Ethiopia, and the possibility of opening bank accounts and obtaining driving licenses.


Strategic roll-out of the CRRF

The CRRF can be regarded as a vehicle to realize the implementation of the Government’s nine pledges. The Government has increasingly sought a more sustainable response that goes beyond care and maintenance of refugees towards promoting their self-reliance. This approach combines wider support to host communities, fostering peaceful coexistence and greater inclusion of refugees in national development plans.

A set of new and innovative approaches is required to increase the quality of protection and expand protection solutions for refugees. The Government is doing this through a four-pronged approach: (1) implementing the pledges; (2) strengthening legal and policy components; (3) supporting host populations (4) strengthening coordination mechanisms.

In close consultation with other stakeholders, the Government has prepared a roadmap detailing the implementation of each pledge, outlining key opportunities and partnerships that must be put in place, and is incorporating some of the pledges in a revised Refugee Proclamation due to  come into force in 2018.

A CRRF facilitation mechanism has been established, in collaboration with UNHCR, which includes a National Steering Committee comprising line ministries, federal agencies, development actors, NGOs and donors. The multi-stakeholder Committee, which ensures broad-based engagement and ownership of the CRRF, serves to drive the practical implementation of the Leaders’ Summit pledges. The Steering Committee held its first meeting in December 2017, with subsequent meetings held on a monthly basis. Ethiopia’s CRRF coordination also includes workshops which are taking place with a view to establish six Technical Committees grouped around the nine Government pledges to take forward their implementation. [4] The first two workshops on Education and Basic and Social Services took place in February and March 2018.  In January 2018, the Government created a National Co-ordination Office (NCO) to provide support to the Steering Committee and Technical Committees through advocacy, research, strengthening capacity and building partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation.

Key partnerships

UNHCR Ethiopia has been identified as a pilot Operation to test the multi-year multi-partner (MYMP) process, with a strategy concluded for the period 2017-2020. This is expected to have a positive impact on the capacity to deliver on comprehensive responses and ensure the long-term impact of ongoing activities, by bringing together the full range of national and international partners and stakeholders to plan together with a longer-term vision, leveraging all comparative advantages to tackle and resolve protection and solutions challenges in a sustainable way.

Collaboration with the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Ethiopian Investment Commission has continued, particularly in light of the ”Economic Opportunities for Refugees and Host communities” programme and the creation of industrial parks whereby refugees are allocated a 30% quota for jobs (30,000 jobs for refugees, 70,000 for the host community). Approved locations for the industrial parks thus far are Dire Dawa (East), Mekelle (North) and Alage (West). Ethiopia will benefit from a US$100 million fund from the World Bank under the DRDIP (Development Response Displacement Impact Program) to improve access to basic social services, expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for host communities. Furthermore, following the joint World Bank-UNHCR mission in late 2017, Ethiopia has been confirmed as a beneficiary for funds from the Bank’s IDA-18 regional sub-window for refugees and host communities.

In response to local conflict in and around refugee communities in Gambella, the Administration for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR, UNDP, UNWOMEN and other partners are initiating a project to improve community security, protection and access to justice in four districts and seven camps, in particular building capacities of local institutions.

Comprehensive regional response to the Somali situation

Ethiopia is currently the chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which brings together eight countries in the Central and Horn regions of Africa in support of peace, prosperity and regional integration. At the Special Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which was convened in Nairobi on 25 March 2017, IGAD member States made a commitment to pursue a comprehensive regional approach to deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees and adopted the Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action. In September 2017, IGAD Member States met in Addis Ababa to validate the roadmap and results framework of the Nairobi Plan of Action, both of which are the backbone of the regional CRRF for the Somali situation.

On 20-22 March 2018, an IGAD inter-ministerial stocktaking meeting took place in Nairobi to review the steps taken by each signatory State towards the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration and Action Plan. Ethiopia provided updates in respect to progress made on the pledges to date, highlighting the forthcoming legislative changes and development of the National Comprehensive Refugee Response  strategy. Going forward, IGAD Member States agreed to develop national plans of action by the end of 2018. Read IGAD’s full communiqé here.

Latest developments

Civil documentation for all refugees born in Ethiopia has begun in October 2017 after an amendment to the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) Proclamation was passed, enabling refugees to register their life events –a critical protection tool. This was one of the Government’s pledges towards comprehensive approaches.

School enrolment [5]In line with the Government’s continued efforts to fulfil its Leaders’ Summit pledges, in the last two academic school years (2016/17 and 2017/18):

  • 12,343 additional refugee children were enrolled in pre-school (ECCE) (29% increase; bringing the current enrolment rate to 57%; close to Ethiopia’s pledge to enrol 60%);
  • 35,863 additional refugee children were enrolled in primary school (37% increase; bringing the current enrolment rate to 72%, close to Ethiopia’s pledge to enrol 75%);
  • 3,880 additional refugees enrolled in secondary schools (102% increase; bringing the enrolment rate to 12%; nearing Ethiopia’s pledge to enrol 25%); and
  • 700 additional refugees enrolled in tertiary education (43% increase from 1,600 to 2,300; close to Ethiopia’s pledge to enrol 2500).

The total number of additional refugees who have enrolled in schools across the four levels of education is 52,786.  

A new comprehensive Refugee Proclamation, intending to grant refugees the right to work, access to education, and freedom of movement, is due to be finalised in 2018. The content of the Refugee Proclamation has been agreed by UNHCR and ARRA and is the product of a consultative process involving donors, international and national NGOs, and other line ministries in the Government.  Following review by the Council of Ministers any changes suggested will be shared with UNHCR and ARRA.  It will then pass to the Parliament for vote and the Office of the President for eventual signature.


Contact persons for the CRRF in the UNHCR Office in Ethiopia:

Jonathan Andrews:

Helle Degn:


[1] As of March 2018.

[2] The Four Emerging Regions are the Regional States of Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella and Somali

[3] For more information, please see the summary document of all Member State pledges made at the Leaders’ Summit on refugees here.

[4] The six areas grouped around the nine pledges are: out of camp policy; education; work and live­lihoods; documentation; social and basic services, and lo­cal integration.

[5] Please note that the 2017/2018 education statistics are provisional and are yet to be validated formally by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education.

Current challenges

The Government’s ability to realize its plans to further its duty of care to refugees, relative to its existing resources available, is contingent on the scale-up of equitable responsibility-sharing for refugees from donors and resettlement countries. In a climate of decreasing humanitarian and development financing that has led to critical shortfalls in food assistance (especially with regard to the World Food Programme’s food ration cuts to 1,278 kcal per person per day against the international standard of 2,100 kcal per person per day), limited opportunities for third-country resettlement, insufficient support to youth and a growing population of unaccompanied and separated children, bold financial commitments –  are needed to fully leverage the CRRF’s transformational agenda.



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