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

Francis M. Deng
Francis M. Deng Former Brookings Expert

September 1, 2001

Delivered by Mr. Simon Bagshaw, Office of the Representative of the Secretary-General, Geneva

WARSAW—On behalf of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this working session of the OSCE Implementation Meeting on “human rights and humanitarian issues including migration, refugees and displaced persons.”

This is the second occasion on which the mandate of the Representative has addressed the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the last being 12 months ago in Vienna at the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Migration and Internal Displacement, the convening of which marked a most welcome and clear indication of the interest on the part of the OSCE and its participating States in devoting more focused attention to seeking ways to enhance their response to the problem of internal displacement.

And rightly so. To begin with, approximately 4-5 million of the world’s internally displaced persons can be found in the OSCE region, in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Most recently, more than 70,000 persons have become internally displaced in Macedonia.

Second, the United Nations lacks the capacity and the resources to respond alone to each and every crisis of internal displacement. Indeed, just as the United Nations seeks to respond to internal displacement crises through the collaborative efforts of its various operational agencies, so regional organisations should play a role in this comprehensive approach.

Third, situations of armed conflict and displacement rarely remain confined within borders. They often spill over borders and into neighbouring States, particularly in the form of refugees and create problems for regional stability. In responding to these problems, regional organisations are perceived as less distant than the United Nations and more in tune with the specific problems and issues in the region and can, therefore, play an important role.

Last year’s Supplementary Human Dimension meeting in Vienna produced a number of very constructive and concrete proposals with regard to the role of the participating States and OSCE institutions and field missions in meeting the protection and assistance needs of internally displaced persons in the region. Twelve months on, this implementation meeting provides a very important opportunity to recall and reaffirm those proposals and to call for their translation into practical measures which aim to ameliorate the plight of Europe’s internally displaced. I would draw attention to those proposals:

First, internal displacement should be defined as a human dimension issue of direct concern to the Organisation.

Second, internal displacement should be addressed from a regional perspective, since enhanced regional and cross-border cooperation can contribute to the process of peaceful resolution of existing conflicts.

Third, the OSCE, as part of its monitoring and reporting activities, should regularly review the situation of internally displaced persons with special emphasis put on systematically informing OSCE decision-making bodies about discriminatory practices against internally displaced persons and about their needs for assistance and protection. The proposals also called for dialogue with relevant Governments with a view to promoting greater respect for the rights of internally displaced persons and that during election observation missions, it should be a matter of special scrutiny whether internally displaced persons can freely exercise their right to vote.

Fourth, the OSCE’s activities with regard to internal displacement should be integrated into existing institutions, including the mandate of the High Commissioner on National Minorities and more fully into the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. At the same time, consideration might be given to allocating responsibility for the issue to a particular body or mechanism or one might be created specifically for this purpose – that is a focal point for internal displacement within the organisation.

Fifth, the OSCE Ministerial Council should integrate internal displacement into OSCE activities, using the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement as a framework.

Sixth, heads of OSCE field missions should ensure that all their staff members dealing with internally displaced persons be provided with the Guiding Principles. In this connection, the OSCE should issue guidance and provide training on their application.

Finally, projects to foster understanding between population groups, in particular those involving community leaders and young community members, should be encouraged.

The implementation of these proposals could make a significant contribution towards fostering a more responsive climate to situations of displacement and to developing a more systematic and comprehensive regional response to the needs of those affected.

Thank you for your attention.