On 23 October 2009, African States adopted the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of internally displaced persons in Africa. Called the Kampala Convention, which came into force in 2012 and was inspired by the Guiding Principles on internal displacement, it is the world’s first legally binding regional instrument on the protection and assistance of internally displaced people. It marks a major milestone in efforts to address internal displacement across Africa and serves as a model for other regions.
The Kampala Convention provides detailed guidance on how African States should deal with internal displacement. It also stresses that States should cooperate and support each other to address challenges around displacement. Some of the rules in the convention – such as those on safe and voluntary return, and access to compensation and other forms of reparation – go even further than existing treaties.
The ICRC has supported the Kampala Convention from the outset. We were involved in the drafting of the convention, providing legal advice on issues relating to international humanitarian law and supporting the negotiation process that led to its adoption. And we have since been encouraging States to ratify the convention and helping them implement its provisions in full. In 2016, we published a report that takes stock of States’ progress towards, and experiences of, implementation, building on lessons learned and promoting best practice. The report stresses the importance of giving displaced people a meaningful say in decisions that affect them, ensuring access to essential services, and the vital role of the African Union and regional stakeholders in promoting the convention across the continent. It also contains a series of recommendations, for States and other actors, on a broad range of issues such as preventing displacement, managing and coordinating the national and local response, better protecting and assisting displaced people, and delivering lasting solutions.
The report on the stocktaking exercise is used by the ICRC delegations in Africa in discussions with the authorities on States’ obligations to protect and assist IDPs, and to support the adoption of national legal frameworks and policies to those ends. At the continental level, it informs our dialogue with the African Union and regional forums, such as the Intergovernmental Authorities for Development (IGAD) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on promoting ratification and implementation of the Kampala Convention.
The report has also proved useful to inform exchanges of experiences among States on IDP-related responses at sub-regional level. It served as a starting point for discussions among governmental experts during the first meeting of the Conference of States Parties foreseen under the Kampala Convention, held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in April 2017.