A seminar on internal displacement in southern Sudan was held on November 25, 2002 in Rumbek to promote greater attention to the needs of an estimated 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Sudan People’s Democratic Front (SPDF). The seminar, sponsored by the Brookings-SAIS Project, the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons and UNICEF, sought to increase the accountability of non-state actors with the international humanitarian and human rights standards as restated in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It was the first seminar convened by the Project and the Representative with the cooperation and active participation of non-state actors. The seminar was chaired by the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons who addressed the participants on the work of the mandate.
In civil war situations, far less attention is generally paid to IDPs in areas controlled by non-state actors. However, non-state actors do have responsibilities under international humanitarian law. Attributing responsibility to them for the treatment of IDPs on the basis of internationally established standards seeks to hold them accountable without necessarily according them recognition.
At the seminar, Elijah Malok, Executive Director of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), the relief wing of the SPLM/A, presented a draft policy to address the needs of internally displaced persons in areas under their control. The draft policy commits the SPLM/A to promote the protection of IDPs and address their needs. Mr. Malok, with the endorsement of the seminar participants, undertook to promote the formal adoption of this policy by the SPLM/A leadership.
Seminar participants also:
- Called on the SPLM/A to work together with international humanitarian organizations and local NGOs to develop accurate data in the areas of southern Sudan under their control and coordinate their assistance and protection programs with these organizations.
- Recalled that humanitarian agencies should be granted immediate access to displaced populations wherever they may be found to promote assistance and protection to those at risk.
- Urged all actors to ensure that the return and resettlement of displaced persons is voluntary, safe and in dignity and that governmental and SPLM/A policies for return are coordinated.
- Called for an increase in international donor involvement in southern Sudan, especially in the event of a large-scale return, but regardless of whether or not there is a peace agreement.
- Emphasized the importance of sharing information and establishing partnerships with civil society in protecting IDPs, especially women, children and the disabled, in the return process.
The report contains current information on the situation of IDPs in southern Sudan, the full text of the SPLM/A draft policy, and statements by Mr. Malok and other participants.