Translating the Kampala Convention into practice: A stocktaking exercise

07 May 2018

In 2016, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) carried out a study to take stock of current progress in implementing the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention). As the first ever legally binding international instrument of its kind, the Kampala Convention represents a significant step forward in reaffirming the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the face of a growing displacement problem in Africa. The stocktaking exercise grew because of the recognition of the value of the Kampala Convention and the urgent need to make it as effective as possible. The ICRC was involved from the outset in the drafting of the Kampala Convention and, since its adoption, has been working on promoting its ratification and implementation. The stocktaking exercise, therefore, is part of the ICRC's continuous support to the Kampala Convention. It is also an additional step within the framework of the ICRC's long-term operational engagement in addressing the needs of the displaced and their host communities affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence in Africa. At the origin of the stocktaking exercise was also the observation that several States have undertaken – or are undertaking – important action to domesticate and operationalize the Kampala Convention, but they have tended to do so in isolation. The ICRC felt there was a need to compile the diverse experiences of States in order to bolster efforts to fully implement the Convention, by allowing States to learn from each other about how the Convention can work best. The study examined the practice of twenty-five African countries in which the ICRC is operating – these include not only States party to the Kampala Convention, but also other States not yet party who have taken action on internal displacement in the form of normative, policy or concrete measures. The focus has been on those obligations that are based in international humanitarian law or touch on humanitarian issues that the ICRC encounters in operations across Africa. The findings were published in a report that identifies lessons learned, best practices and key challenges in States' efforts to meet their obligations towards IDPs, as provided in the Kampala Convention. The report offers recommendations to States and other actors concerned (African Union, Regional Economic Communities, UN agencies, civil society organizations, etc.) on how to translate the Kampala Convention into real improvements for IDPs. The report is being used by ICRC delegations in Africa in bilateral discussions with States on their obligations to protect and assist IDPs, and to provide them with durable solutions. It is also used to support the adoption by States of national legal frameworks and policies as part of their responses to situations of internal displacement. At the continental level, the report informs the ICRC's long-standing cooperation with the African Union and sub-regional forums (e.g. the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Economic Community of West African States) on promoting ratification of the Kampala Convention and strengthening its implementation. For example, the report served as a starting point for discussions among experts during the first meeting of the Conference of States Party to the Kampala Convention that was held in Harare in April 2017. According to the framework of the Plan of Action adopted by the Conference, the ICRC is to support further initiatives to enhance awareness of the Kampala Convention and facilitate the sharing of experience and expertise among States on its implementation. The report's findings and recommendations are also proving to be useful in the ICRC's dialogue with States in other regions beyond Africa, insofar as they provide examples of measures that States can adopt to address internal displacement more effectively at the national and regional levels.