ICRC submits evidence to UK inquiry on forced displacement and humanitarian response in Central and East Africa

10 February 2017
ICRC submits evidence to UK inquiry on forced displacement and humanitarian response in Central and East Africa

Central and East Africa is home to the ICRC's second biggest operation in South Sudan. Africa as a whole accounts for 40% of the ICRC's field budget and Central and East Africa is home to four of the top ten largest ICRC operations in the world (South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and DRC). Within Africa, as in the rest of the world, people are forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict and other situations of violence. Some of these people remain internally displaced in their own country, whilst others flee across borders as migrants.

For the ICRC, the current debate around forced displacement is neither new nor surprising, as we work in many places affected by displacement. Yet while the dynamic is not new, it is reaching worrying dimensions: more than 65 million people were forcibly displaced in 2015, of which roughly one third are refugees, with two thirds – the clear majority – being displaced in their own country, often multiple times. Those countries that host most refugees are exclusively countries neighboring conflict-affected nations, including those in Central and East Africa, like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, or Chad. As conflicts continue to last, so does displacement of those who fled in fear, and by extension so lasts the uncertainty and insecurity that come with it.

Summary of key points:

States must act to prevent and mitigate the effects of internal displacement, as it continues to be a critical humanitarian concern.Internally displaced people often have particular needs and vulnerabilities, which may exacerbate the difficulties they face living in a conflict or violent environment. They are often deprived of their livelihoods and their assets. Families, particularly children, are often separated, and lose the safety and support that comes with living in their communities. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation. Poor access to essential goods and services, such as health care or education, is commonplace in displaced communities. IDPs may face exclusion due to a lack of documentation, voice or influence – or all three. Fear, anguish and uncertainty can dominate their lives.The Kampala Convention provides a comprehensive framework that can guide African States in their response to internal displacement. However, it can realize its full potential only if it is ratified and fully implemented by States. In 2016 the ICRC produced a report taking stock of progress in implementing the Convention, identifying best practices and challenges.There is an urgent need for ensuring access of IDPs to essential goods and basic services such as health care and education.Experience also shows the importance of developing programs to promote self-reliance and sustainable livelihoods for IDPs in order to avoid their dependency on humanitarian assistance and to help them normalize their situation and thus make progress towards a durable solution.States experiencing challenges with internal displacement should proactively initiate dialogue with international and national partners and donors on issues related to durable solutions.When an armed conflict is ongoing, measures can and, in many cases, must be taken, by States and other parties to the conflict, to prevent displacement from occurring in the first place, in accordance with international humanitarian law (IHL).The importance for States and other actors of engaging in dialogue with IDPs and host communities, in order to ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making on law, policies and programmes that affect them, cannot be overstated.

What are the most pressing needs of displaced persons in Central and East Africa? Are the legal rights afforded to IDPs by the Kampala Convention being observed?

More than 40 million people worldwide are internally displaced within their own countries; Africa is home to nearly one third of them – 12 million people. In Niger internally displaced people outnumber host communities 20-fold in some places of the Lake Chad Basin. Continued fighting in South Sudan has resulted in over 1.6 million IDPs, or 15% of its total population.

The main causes of forced displacement are well known. Not enough is being done by States to prevent and resolve armed conflict, and far too little is being done by parties to conflict to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. States must keep the focus on internal displacement, as it continues to be a critical humanitarian concern. The majority of people who are uprooted by armed conflict and other situations of violence remain within their own country. In cases where a nexus exists between internal displacement and the movement of people across international borders, a comprehensive response is required, which should seek to both address the needs of migrants (including refugees) in transit and destination countries, and to strengthen the protection of IDPs and resident populations affected by armed conflict and other violence in their countries of origin.

Internally displaced people often have particular needs and vulnerabilities, which may exacerbate the difficulties they face living in a conflict or violent environment. They are often deprived of their livelihoods and their assets. Families, particularly children, are often separated, and lose the safety and support that comes with living in their communities. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation. Poor access to essential goods and services, such as health care or education, is commonplace in displaced communities. IDPs may face exclusion due to a lack of documentation, voice or influence – or all three. Fear, anguish and uncertainty can dominate their lives.

In response to these urgent needs, African States joined forces to create the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention) in 2009. This pioneering treaty, the world's first ever legally binding instrument on internal displacement, entered into force in 2012 after 15 African States joined it. Today, 25 African States are party to the Kampala Convention, while another 18 have signed but are not yet party to it. While the number of States Parties has continued to grow, the momentum from earlier years has been lost. The Kampala Convention can realize its full potential only if it is ratified and fully implemented by States. This requires adopting national legislation and policies to incorporate the obligations provided in the Convention into domestic frameworks, as well as concrete measures to translate the Convention into real improvements for IDPs.

In 2016 the ICRC carried out a study in 25 African countries to take stock of progress on implementing the Kampala Convention. This report identified lessons learned, good practices and key challenges in States' efforts to meet their obligations to IDPs.[1] We were able to benefit from our field presence in Africa for this exercise, where ICRC delegations in 29 countries carry out protection and assistance activities for IDPs, host communities and all those suffering the consequences of armed conflict or other situations of violence. Key questions asked by the study were: What impact does the Kampala Convention have on the ground? What difference can it make in the lives of IDPs? What more needs to be done for the full implementation of the Kampala Convention to become a reality?

Key findings from the ICRC study include:

• There is an urgent need for ensuring access of IDPs to essential goods and basic services such as health care and education. Given that States often lack the necessary human and financial resources, effective access to IDPs by humanitarian organizations is a key factor in meeting the needs of those IDPs. Equally important is a commitment by public authorities and international actors to abide by humanitarian principles in providing assistance to IDPs. It is essential to also address the needs of host communities to ensure their continued capacity to provide for themselves and to support those who are displaced. This helps to avoid or reduce possible tensions and competition for scarce resources between host communities and IDPs, which could result in greater vulnerability for IDPs and reduced options for durable solutions.

• Experience also shows the importance of developing programs to promote self-reliance and sustainable livelihoods for IDPs in order to avoid their dependency on humanitarian assistance and to help them normalize their situation and thus make progress towards a durable solution. In particular, for rural communities with farming as their main livelihood, protracted displacement to urban areas might require re-orienting their livelihood strategies to access the formal labour market. States and other actors should create opportunities for vocational training and employability in favour of IDPs, supporting registered micro-economic initiatives. At the same time, the authorities can increase the IDPs' ability to become self-reliant by enabling them to move freely and adopting efficient measures for the provision or replacement of personal identity and other official documents, so that they can access livelihood options and carry out income-generating activities.

• States experiencing challenges with internal displacement should proactively initiate dialogue with international and national partners and donors on issues related to durable solutions. This can help connect the urgent humanitarian response to a longer-term development agenda, while mobilizing the financial resources required to realize the appropriate interventions. It can also help address some of the causes of displacement, for example, by ensuring a more effective coordination between humanitarian organizations and development actors in implementing medium and long-term activities to support infrastructure and services for residents as well as IDPs.

• When an armed conflict is ongoing, measures can and, in many cases, must be taken, by States and other parties to the conflict, to prevent displacement from occurring in the first place. This is especially true in respecting and ensuring respect for IHL and increasing efforts to protect civilians and limit the harm to which they are exposed. In practice, violations of IHL continue to be a major cause of conflict-related internal displacement in Africa. The challenge here is to strengthen the commitment (and capacity) of States and parties to the conflict to respect and ensure respect for IHL. In protracted armed conflicts, bringing parties to comply with IHL and limit the destruction and degradation of services during the hostilities is key to avoid further deterioration of people's living conditions and new displacement, as well as to preserve the conditions for the eventual return of IDPs.

• The importance for States and other actors of engaging in dialogue with IDPs and host communities, in order to ensure their meaningful participation in decision-making on law, policies and programmes that affect them, cannot be overstated. Engagement with IDPs is consistent with full consideration of their human dignity and rights. It helps reinforce the agency and autonomy of IDPs themselves, individually and in communities, while encouraging their resilience. As a result, IDPs are able to contribute to their own protection and assistance. This active engagement should take into account the diverse profiles of the displaced population; particular attention should be paid to ensuring that women, elderly people, the disabled and minority groups are able to make their voice heard and can participate in the decision-making process.

Lessons learned and good practice from Central and Eastern Africa

Prevention

Across Africa, States have taken a range of actions to realise the national implementation of the Kampala Convention and to develop a national approach to IDP-related challenges. While there is, of course, no single "template" or one single "best" approach, the number and diversity of efforts undertaken provide practical examples for other States, as they move to join and/or implement the Convention in their own particular context.

Uganda was a pioneer, adopting The National Policy for Internally Displaced Persons in 2004, long before the Kampala Convention was created. Uganda's policy was designed to implement the Guiding Principles, and is broad in scope. It includes the establishment of a national coordination body, detailed arrangements for intergovernmental coordination at the national and the local levels, specific provisions for aspects of protection and assistance, and arrangements for public education.

In Kenya, a comprehensive framework to address displacement issues has been developed and adopted. Kenya is a party to the Great Lakes Pact, but not yet a party to the Kampala Convention. It is worth noting that Kenya's framework addresses a number of Convention obligations and can serve as an example for other States, party and non-party alike.

In Burundi, a comprehensive peace agreement (the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi, 2000) includes multiple provisions relating to internal displacement (e.g. on access to people in need and the security of international personnel and provision of humanitarian aid) that are consistent with the Kampala Convention. Burundi is not yet a party to the Kampala Convention, but here again these measures are, in many cases, consistent with Convention obligations.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Child Protection Code (2009) includes a provision on the rights of displaced children, which specifies their right to protection and humanitarian assistance. This is an interesting example of a legal basis for protecting and assisting IDP children, even in the absence of specific legislation implementing the Kampala Convention.

Planning, management and monitoring of protection and assistance activities

In South Sudan the role of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission is one of coordination of humanitarian agencies and humanitarian work, and its mandate extends to coordinating relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration of IDPs and returnees.

In Somalia, a comprehensive national Policy Framework on Displacement was developed in 2014. This includes provisions for early warning of displacement, data collection and designation of roles within the national authorities.

Where legislative or other delays mean that an appropriate coordination structure for IDPs is not established, other existing structures can, in some cases, be adapted to provide practical responses to the needs of IDPs. This can prove useful, although it does not diminish the importance of coordination structures and bodies specifically established for the purpose of dealing with internal displacement.

In some countries, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, State authorities have agreements with their country's National Red Cross Society for initial assessment and rapid response at the outset of a displacement situation. This type of agreement can be very valuable in that it can, in advance, serve to put in place plans and resources needed to respond to sudden emergencies.

Providing adequate humanitarian assistance to IDPs

In a number of countries, humanitarian organizations are generally given rapid and unimpeded access to IDPs by State authorities. In Rwanda, for example, the State authorities have engaged humanitarian actors in a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which meets regularly. This ongoing cooperation can help improve coordination in times of emergencies and thus improve access for the provision of humanitarian assistance to the resident and displaced communities most in need.

Also in Rwanda, the State authorities have established a structure within the government that centralises decision-making of possible requests for international assistance. The National Disaster Management Executive Committee (NDMEC), which includes ministries and agencies with responsibilities in responding to natural disasters, advises the Rwandan government on disaster situations where domestic capacities may not be sufficient and recommends, where necessary, that the government seek international assistance. Similar mechanisms can help ensure a speedy delivery of assistance as needed.

In Ethiopia, in the context of implementing the National Policy and Strategy on Disaster Risk Management, the government has established Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Committees not only in the capital, but also at the local level. These committees are directly involved in the counting of IDPs, initial assessments, compilation of figures with IOM support, and the provision of assistance through government, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, international NGOs and humanitarian actors, such as the ICRC.

Some interesting examples have been found concerning the important issue of access to education for internally displaced children. In Ethiopia, local school authorities have allowed internally displaced children who did not have resident personal identity documents to attend school, thus avoiding or reducing interruptions to their education. Similarly, in South Sudan, the authorities have sometimes made arrangements to facilitate access to education for internally displaced children, e.g. by waiving school fees or approving curricula for schools in Protection of Civilians sites located on UNMISS bases.

Protection of IDPs

Many important provisions for the protection of IDPs were included in the comprehensive peace agreement negotiated in 2015 between the government of South Sudan and the opposition. For example, the mandate of the Transitional Government for National Unity includes expediting "the relief, protection, voluntary and dignified repatriation, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs". While these commitments have not yet been implemented, they are important undertakings concerning IDPs by the government and the opposition that may become concrete in the future.

In Uganda, the National Strategy for IDPs expressly authorizes local authorities to issue necessary documents to IDPs. This includes replacement of documents lost as a result of displacement. The Strategy specifically precludes the imposition of fines or extra costs for replacing documents, or of other "unreasonable conditions". Of note, the Strategy specifies that men and women shall have equal rights to obtain identification documents, and that women have the right to have such documents issued in their own name.

In addition to States, other stakeholders can be both actors and catalysts in the development of good practice. In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA adopted a directive concerning the civilian character of IDP camps. This followed a joint consideration by MINUSCA, the local authorities in Bambari and Kagabandoro, and international organizations. The directive specified the role and responsibilities of the authorities and MINUSCA in ensuring that weapons and armed groups do not find their way into IDP camps. This is an example of a multilateral arrangement that built on a State's political will.

Durable solutions for IDPs

Legal protections for IDPs at the constitutional and ordinary domestic law levels are important elements in creating an environment conducive to durable solutions. For example, in Ethiopia, the constitution, the Criminal Code and the Land Administration Policy all potentially provide important protections for IDPs, which are essential for dignified durable solutions. These fundamental legal protections lay the groundwork for the more specific legal and policy measures that are required in each case.

Uganda's National Strategy contains detailed provisions regarding voluntary return and resettlement for IDPs, including on the need for "objective and accurate information relevant to their return or reintegration to their homes."

In Central African Republic, ad hoc structures were created by the new government to study the eventual closure of IDP camps in M'poko and the return or relocation of IDPs accommodated there. This is an expression of political will to tackle the issue of durable solutions, which hopefully will give impetus to future strategies in this regard.

[1] Translating the Kampala Convention into Practice, ICRC, https://shop.icrc.org/translating-the-kampala-convention-into-practice-2...

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