Editor’s Note: Read the full question and answer session at the World Politics Review.
An African Union treaty to protect internally displaced persons, known as the Kampala Convention, came into effect last week following its ratification by a 15th state. In an email interview, Megan Bradley, discussed the convention.
World Politics Review: What are the Kampala Convention’s main provisions?
Megan Bradley: As the world’s first binding agreement on internally displaced persons (IDPs), the Kampala Convention is a human rights milestone. It takes a comprehensive approach, addressing multiple causes of displacement, such as conflict, human rights violations, natural disasters and development projects such as dams. Its provisions tackle every stage of displacement, including the prevention of displacement, assistance and protection during displacement crises and the resolution of displacement situations. The convention affirms that national governments bear primary responsibility for protecting and assisting those who are displaced within their borders, but it also addresses the obligations of a range of actors, including U.N. agencies, NGOs, the African Union, multinational corporations, nonstate armed groups and private security actors.
WPR: How does its entry into force alter the landscape of international legal provisions for internally displaced persons?
Bradley: The 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement have been widely recognized by governments and international organizations as a critical international framework and have been used to inform responses to internal displacement crises around the world. The Guiding Principles are based on international human rights and humanitarian law and refugee law by analogy. Although some governments recognize the Guiding Principles as reflective of customary international law, they are not themselves legally binding. In fact, when internal displacement first emerged as an issue on the international agenda two decades ago, reaching a binding agreement on IDPs seemed impossible. The Kampala Convention is a testament to African legal leadership and a reflection of how far attitudes toward internal displacement have evolved in the past 20 years. The Kampala Convention builds on the Guiding Principles and advances international norms on internal displacement in several important ways. For example, it strengthens individuals’ right to be protected against arbitrary displacement and indicates that those forced to flee their homes have a right to an effective remedy. This could include compensation, the restitution of their homes or other forms of redress. The convention provides an example that other regions dealing with internal displacement, such as Europe and the Americas, may wish to follow.
By prioritizing security and cutting back on aid and trade, the United States may weaken its long-term strategic position on the continent.