Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement

Letter from Chaloka Beyani, November 2011

LETTER FROM CHALOKA BEYANI — November 2011
Mission to Kenya; Climate Change and Displacement Report; Study on UN Security Council

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I thought I would take this opportunity to send around a note about some of my recent activities and concerns as a way of keeping different constituencies informed about the work of my mandate. 

It has been a busy 5 weeks, beginning with a 9-day mission to Kenya late September. While the official report of that mission is being drafted, at this point I can say that I was struck by both the suffering of people who have been displaced for years and by the possibilities of meaningful change as the Kenyan government has drafted a policy on IDPs. I hope that the policy will be adopted soon and put into practice as I feel that it will create a legal framework for ensuring that IDPs are not only protected and assisted while they are displaced, but and most importantly, that they find durable solutions. Since my visit, a draft legislative framework has been prepared and I am now working with the protection cluster working group and the Parliamentary Select Committee to review the draft legislation. I was also struck by the need to collect reliable data on the number and conditions of IDPs, including a break-down of IDPs by gender, age and specific vulnerabilities.

In October, I presented my first report to the General Assembly on the issue of climate change and displacement – an issue I intend to highlight in the work of my mandate over the coming three years. In that report, I emphasized that preventing and addressing displacement is a key adaptation strategy for climate change which needs to be more widely recognized by the broader international community. As you know,  my first mission was to the Maldives where I saw firsthand how climate change is already impacting on the population’s access to housing, clean water, and livelihoods. In the discussion in the General Assembly, the representative of the Maldives affirmed that displacement stemming from climate change was a central concern of his government. He also mentioned that there was much improvement in their approach to climate-induced displacement as a result of my visit. The discussion by other General Assembly members was generally positive with States raising questions about issues ranging from the way the UN is currently dealing with internal displacement to internally displaced women. In the course of the discussions, invitations were issued by Georgia and Serbia for me to visit those countries.

Also in New York, I spoke at the launch of a new study by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement on the way the Security Council has dealt with internal displacement over the past twelve years. That report included not only an objective analysis of Security Council action, but also drew out key considerations and examples of good  practice which I hope will be used by the Security Council in formulating future recommendations. I also spoke to the humanitarian group of states chaired by Ireland, and to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Working Group at OCHA.

The coming month promises to be a busy one as I write my first report for the Human Rights Council on March, including mission reports to both the Maldives and Kenya. I will also highlight the thematic issue of IDPs living outside of camps – another issue I intend to emphasize in the coming period. 

I also plan to engage in a dialogue on international humanitarian law as well as the responsibility to Protect at LSE, to participate in the December meeting of the IASC principals and to attend the Summit of the Great Lakes states in Kampala. 

I feel that we have arrived at a crucial moment with respect to the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons – also known as the Kampala Convention– which is the first legally-binding instrument on internal displacement in the world. The Convention needs 15 ratifications to enter into force – and presently 14 governments have ratified the Convention. I have devoted considerable time and energy to talking with African governments, civil society and international actors to urge the adoption of this Convention. It will be an exciting day indeed when the treaty enters into force – even though I am well aware that much hard work will be required to translate the regional convention into effective national laws and policies at the national level. 

As always, I count on many supporters in carrying out my mandate – from governments to international actors to civil society organizations. I am grateful for their efforts on behalf of IDPs and hope that together we can make a difference in the lives of many who have been uprooted by conflict, human rights violations, and disasters.

Sincerely,

Chaloka Beyani
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
Co-Director, Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement