First let me express my appreciation to the Philippines Human Rights Commission for the invitation to address this gathering and particularly for providing us all with the opportunity over the next two days to hear and discuss a variety of perspectives on internal displacement in the Philippines.
As Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons I particularly commend the Commission for convening this Forum and for the broader process of consultations and workshops of which this Forum is the culmination. The organization of such a forum was one of the recommendations made by my predecessor, Dr Francis Deng, upon his visit to the Philippines in 2002.
In his recommendation, Dr Deng called for a closing of the gap between government policy on internal displacement and its implementation on the ground. He identified a need to clarify strategies for addressing the problem of internal displacement, including protection and assistance needs, and to facilitate the search for durable solutions. As we meet in this Forum, I suggest we keep these particular goals in mind.
This Forum, however, is not an end in itself. Bringing this large group of actors together is key to ensuring that all voices in this debate are heard and should lead to an integrated approach to displacement in the Philippines. However, for this to occur, it is essential that, as my predecessor noted, the policies and strategies arising from this meeting be widely disseminated throughout the country, especially in areas of displacement outside of the capital, and specifically among internally displaced communities. Most importantly, it is key that they be implemented.