Toward Durable Solutions for Afghan Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

February 4, 2002

Good afternoon. It is an honor to be with you here today. On behalf of the Brookings Institution-CUNY Project on Internal Displacement and the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, I’d like to thank UNDP and the German Government for the invitation to participate in this important initiative. Although I did not participate in the first workshop, I was pleased to learn that it identified the return and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons as being a high priority for the international community and indeed devoted an entire session to this issue. I do hope that my comments today will not be too repetitive, but rather will complement and further this discussion.

In particular, I’ve been asked to speak under the theme of human security about refugees and internally displaced persons. Human security is a broad concept, which at its most fundamental entails “freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, their safety or their lives.” It is a theme of tremendous significance to refugees and displaced persons as these are people who have had to flee precisely because of threats to their human security, who typically face continuing threats once displaced and for whom a durable solution to their plight relies on a restoration of their human security, in particular their physical safety and human rights.

The comments I’ll be making today are based on many years working with Francis Deng, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons. Together we’ve studied and also visited many situations of internal displacement the world over. From these various situations it is possible to distill a number of lessons which can inform thinking about and could usefully be applied to the search for solutions to the plight of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons.

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