Opening Statement by Professor Walter Kälin

Walter Kälin
Walter Kälin Former Brookings Expert

July 3, 2006

KAMPALA— As Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Co-Director of the Brookings Institution – University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement, I join with those who have spoken before me to warmly welcome you to this workshop on the Implementation of Uganda’s National Policy for Internally Displaced Persons. At the outset, I would like to acknowledge with appreciation the Government of Uganda for hosting the workshop. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Country Team in Uganda for its assistance in organising the event. And finally, I would like in particular to welcome warmly the representatives of internally displaced persons from the districts hardest hit by displacement.

Of the nearly 24 million people worldwide who are displaced within their own countries due to armed conflict and communal strife, more than half are found in Africa. Of these, some 1.7 to 2 million are in Uganda. Although it is one of the countries worst-affected by internal displacement, Uganda is also one of the first countries in the world to have adopted a national policy aimed at upholding the rights of its internally displaced population.

My predecessor, Francis Deng, undertook an official visit to Uganda in 2003 and had the opportunity to discuss the draft of the policy with officials from the Office of the Prime Minister. He found the policy to be “comprehensive and rich in substance.”1 The policy, which draws from the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, was adopted in 2004 and provides a sound example for other  countries to follow in adapting these international standards on internal displacement to a national context. Indeed, I often cite Uganda’s policy as one of the best.

The work of a policy cannot, however, stop at its adoption. In order to enhance the protection of internally displaced persons, it must also be effectively implemented. As part of my mandate is to conduct dialogues with governments concerned, I felt it would be useful to return to Uganda to follow up on my predecessor’s mission, and in this context to contribute to the implementation of the policy. Building on the workshop on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict organized by OCHA in 2004, the objective of this workshop is to identify current challenges to implementing the national policy in Uganda, and how best to respond to them. We shall approach these questions from a pragmatic standpoint, focusing on specific aspects of the policy’s implementation. These include, for example, the capacity of the different stakeholders ongoing security and protection concerns, and the institutional and financial arrangements in place to implement the policy and provide durable solutions for the internally displaced. I hope that our discussions will be frank and constructive, and move beyond politics in order to address the plight of the many victims of displacement in Northern Uganda.

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1Report of Deng’s mission to Uganda, UN Doc E/CN.4/2004/77/Add.1, 3 March 2004.