Statement by the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons

Francis M. Deng
Francis M. Deng Former Brookings Expert

November 19, 2002

Excellency Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to be with you here today to participate in the Global Launch of the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for 2003. On behalf of the UN system, I express appreciation to the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for hosting this event in Luxembourg. Luxembourg has a long tradition of support for humanitarian initiatives including, I note with deep appreciation, the issue of internally displaced persons.

The Global Launch seeks to raise wide awareness of humanitarian needs around the world and provides an opportunity to further at all levels the dialogue and interaction among the various partners—the United Nations, its humanitarian partners and donors that is so key to effectively addressing these needs.

As in recent years, the launch is being simultaneously held in 7 donor capitals, at the UN Headquarters in New York, as well as locally in each country for which an Appeal is being issued.

Today we are launching 20 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals for more than 30 countries and regions in an effort to bring hope and relief to millions of people living in armed conflict and failed states. We are asking the world’s donors for 2.7 billion US dollars to bring food to the hungry, medical assistance to the sick, shelter to the displaced and other essential elements for survival and for a life worth living. This does not include the financial requirements for Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Once these requirements are included, the total is expected to be well over $3 billion for more than 50 million people.

These Consolidated Appeals—or CAPs as they are commonly called—are a result of a process that begins in countries affected by emergencies, such as Afghanistan, Angola, Indonesia and Tajikistan, where UN agencies, the Red Cross movement, NGOs and other humanitarian partners work together to identify needs, develop a strategy to respond, and appeal for the funds to implement programs.

Initially employed as a means of raising funds to respond rapidly to emergency situations, the process has evolved over the years to become a true coordination tool for the UN system, an expression of common humanitarian strategy, and a consolidated platform for fundraising. This means, greater efficiency, less overlap, and better use of donor resources.

In 2002, Consolidated Appeals have received US$ 2.3 billion. While this was an increase over the previous years, it still only represents 54% of what is needed to help the most vulnerable. And that is not enough. Imagine having only half of your daily nutritional needs, or as a child you only receive half the vaccinations you need to survive, or only half of the population gets educated.

When there are such funding inequities, it is often the protection and humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable that are not met, like the elderly, women head of households, unaccompanied minors or, last but not least, the internally displaced, a group particularly close to my heart as Representative of the Secretary-General.

Over the past decade, tens of millions of people have been forced from their homes by armed conflict, internal strife, and systematic violations of human rights but have remained within the borders of their own countries. It is estimated that there are 25 million internally displaced persons worldwide. The fact of having being displaced makes IDPs especially vulnerable. They have been uprooted, separated from their homes and their livelihoods, and have often experienced the trauma of conflict and family loss.

Although, no continent has been spared, Africa has more internally displaced persons than the rest of the world put together – with numbers continuing to rise. The number of IDPs in Africa has reached an estimated 13.5 – an increase of more than five million since 1998. Sudan, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo currently host IDP populations in the millions. Uganda, Nigeria, Burundi and Somalia have either surpassed or are nearly reaching the half million mark.

It is because of the mounting crisis of internal displacement and its global dimension that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights decided in 1992 to request the Secretary-General to appoint a Representative on Internally Displaced Persons. I was honoured to be asked by the Secretary-General to undertake that challenging responsibility.

In the discharge of my mandate, I have conceptualized my role as that of a catalyst in the international system and focused my activities on four main areas: developing an appropriate normative framework for responding to the protection and assistance needs of the internally displaced; fostering effective institutional arrangements at the international and regional levels to these same ends; promoting attention on and assessing specific situations through country missions; and conducting research into various aspects of the displacement crisis.

Efforts to develop an appropriate normative framework for IDPs, led to the issuance, in 1998, of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Principles, which reflect and are consistent with existing human rights and humanitarian law cover all phases of displacement, providing protection from arbitrary displacement, protection and assistance during displacement, and solutions through safe return, resettlement, and reintegration. Their aim is to serve as an international standard to guide the actions of all those with a role to play in providing assistance and protection to IDPs.

The Guiding Principles have gained significant international recognition and standing. The Secretary-General has recommended in cases of mass internal displacement that States follow the guidance offered by the Principles. The Security Council indeed has begun to make reference to the Guiding Principles in its resolutions on specific country and regional situations. The General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have taken note with interest of the use of the Principles by IASC members. Regional organizations, among them the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of African Unity, also have responded positively to the Principles.

Protection of IDP rights is the primary responsibility of governments, yet in many evolving crises, governments may be unable or unwilling to guarantee that the humanitarian needs of IDP are met and international organizations may need to step in. When international organizations step in, it is critical that they coordinate their efforts. The CAP remains the only coordination mechanism that continually brings together UN agencies, host governments, NGOs and increasingly donors for shared analysis, and to discuss and set common strategies, objectives and principles for humanitarian assistance in a country or region.

However, unlike refugees, there is no one UN or international agency with a global mandate for IDPs. Different international agencies and organizations work to address the needs of IDPs, but this can easily lead to duplication and gaps. The Secretary-General’s reform program gave therefore the Emergency Relief Coordinator, who heads the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the responsibility of ensuring that the displaced are protected and assisted. Early this year, an Internal Displacement Unit was established to support the ERC. Kofi Asomani, who heads up this Unit, will provide us with further details in this regard.

Here today we will highlight the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone, countries where years of brutal civil war characterized by gross violations of human rights and widespread abuse have led to massive displacement of populations.

As we look at West Africa, however, we cannot fail to mention the dramatic situation unfolding in Cote D’Ivoire where following the failed coup on September 19, hundreds of people have lost their lives and displacement could affect over 1 million people.

For people in Sierra Leone, but also in Afghanistan or Angola, an end to displacement and suffering is in sight. And it is partly with these people in mind that the theme for the 2003 Appeals was chosen: Hope for the Future.

This theme emphasizes the importance of providing hope to communities ravaged by conflict with no resolution in sight, like Burundi, Liberia or Somalia, where good government and economic development are largely absent, and where your assistance is the only lifeline. For these communities the only hope is that there will be a future; that the clouds of suffering will one day pass.

Yet the theme also addresses the need to support countries emerging from crisis or conflict, such as Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which require humanitarian aid during the critical transition period leading to durable peace and sustainable development.

Funding the “transition” period, the initial post-conflict phase is crucial in order to allow people to rebuild their lives and their country. People generally do not want to leave their homeland. No one chooses to uproot themselves and their family for a life of uncertainty. People make the rational choice to do so only when staying at home is so degrading and/or unsafe that it is no longer an option.

What are the consequences of not supporting post-conflict countries through the difficult transition period? Put yourself in the shoes of a family in Sierra Leone. The brutal civil war is finally over. Soldiers are being demobilized. You have returned to what is left of your home but what are your prospects of making a living when there are no seeds to plant, the schools are burned down, and basic health services are unavailable? Your life expectancy is around 38 years, GDP per capita is US$490, adult literacy is 36%. It is no wonder your country is at the very bottom of the Human Development Index. Your choices are rather limited. Stay in Sierra Leone and face little prospect for you and your family, or go to another country, a richer country, and try to make a living. What would you do?

We have an opportunity right now to consolidate the peace in countries emerging from war in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Angola, the Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Guinea, and other places so that they, with our support, can rebuild their lives and their countries.

The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators for Liberia and Sierra Leone will elaborate upon the strategy, as set out in the Appeals, for addressing the humanitarian and development needs in each of these countries next year. The people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and indeed the more than 50 million persons in need in the 18 humanitarian crises covered in the Appeals worldwide, depend on our assistance in the coming year.

The Government of Luxembourg has been an important contributor to multilateral humanitarian efforts in the past years. It is my sincere hope that the millions who need our help can count on your country’s continued support and generosity.

Thank you.