Letter from Chaloka Beyani, April 2012
UN Human Rights Council; IDP Women; 20th Anniversary of the Mandate
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It’s been another busy month, with activities on various fronts. The first week of March, I presented my report to the UN Human Rights Council, focusing on the situation of non-camp IDPs. In spite of unexpectedly limited time for interactive dialogue, the response from States to my report – and to the issue – was uniformly positive. Many governments are facing the challenge of responding to the needs of IDPs who do not live in camps but who are dispersed among both urban neighborhoods and rural settlements. This is an issue I intend to continue to work on during the course of my mandate in various ways. I hope that the IASC will continue its work on the issue and will come up with best practices used in protecting and assisting IDPs living in non-camp settings. Another way of supporting work on this issue will be through research on the role of municipal authorities in responding to IDPs outside of camps through the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and I look forward to sharing the results of that research at a later stage. When it comes to non-camp IDPs, it is usually governments at the local and provincial levels that are most challenged to provide concrete assistance.
In conjunction with the Human Rights Council meeting, OHCHR organized a side event on IDP women, with the participation of Erika Feller (UNHCR), Jane Connors (OHCHR), Katarina Samara (ICVA) and myself. This provided a good opportunity to highlight the importance of including a gender perspective – and particularly of including IDP women in decision-making – in all programs intended to assist and protect IDPs.
During my time in Geneva, I was also able to speak at a brownbag ‘Food for Thought’ discussion, organized by UNHCR, on issues of internal displacement and I was pleased and encouraged to see so many participants from a range of organizations engaged with the issue. Similarly, I have been pleased to see the interest in displacement issues on the part of other OHCHR special procedures, including those working on issues such as migrant workers, human rights defenders, housing and the right to food. While there is still much to be done in mainstreaming displacement throughout the UN, it is clear that this is an issue that resonates with many in the human rights community.
Later in the month, I traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the annual planning retreat with staff of the Brookings-LSE Project and OHCHR staff working in support of the mandate. We agreed on an ambitious program of activities to support the work of my mandate over the course of the year, including additional research on the four core priorities for the coming period: strengthening normative frameworks, addressing the displacement challenges of climate change, IDP women and IDPs living in non-camp situations. During the course of the few days I was in Washington, I was also able to speak at a panel on IDPs organized by USAID, to launch new studies on host communities carried out by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and ICRC, and to meet with a number of US government officials and NGO representatives. I was particularly pleased to hear that USAID is embarking on a review of its 2004 policy toward IDPs – this is a timely initiative which I fully support and of course, am ready to contribute to the process. I was also encouraged to see the interest shown by the US government in supporting efforts to secure the necessary ratifications to ensure the entry into force of the Kampala Convention can enter into force. This is an area near to my heart and I have been working closely with the Friends of Kampala group, chaired by UNHCR, to see how the international community can come up with ways of supporting this African initiative.
Meanwhile, we have been working behind-the-scenes to organize missions during the coming months. A number of governments have already issued invitations, but the process of finding mutually-agreeable dates is always a challenging one. I am also considering how to respond effectively to the many requests I receive to provide specialized legal advice to governments seeking to develop appropriate laws and policies on internal displacement.
While the month of March was a busy one, the upcoming month looks like it will be similarly busy. I’ll travel to Kampala in early April to participate in a meeting organized by the InterParliamentary Union and look forward to discussing the Kampala Convention with African Members of Parliament. Later in the month I’ll also travel to New York for the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Principals meeting of Principals where the issue of the ‘transformative agenda’ will be considered and then to speak at a long-scheduled meeting of the Zambia Law Society.
I’m also looking forward to our annual course on the law of internal displacement organized jointly with UNHCR in Sanremo in mid-June which offers, in addition to the formal curriculum, an opportunity to engage informally with government representatives. And I’m delighted that we’ll be expanding our Sanremo course by offering a new course on human rights and natural disasters there in the fall – also in collaboration with UNHCR.
Finally, I note that twentieth anniversary of the mandate is soon approaching which offers a good opportunity to both reflect on the accomplishments of the mandate and to identify priorities for future action. I look forward to commemorative events around this occasion – in June on the margins of the Human Rights Council meeting – and in September as a side event to the General Assembly discussions on the subject. And I am grateful to so many people over the years who have contributed to the mandate’s work – this has been a truly collaborative approach which has yielded concrete results for millions of internally displaced persons.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
Co-Director, Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement