Refugees, returnees and displaced persons: ICRC statement to the United Nations, 2012
United Nations, General Assembly, 67th session, Third Committee, Item 62 of the agenda, statement by the ICRC, New York, 7 November 2012.
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.
There is an urgent need to ensure that those subjected to long-term displacement be able to benefit from social welfare systems and development projects to the same extent as other sections of the population (...)"
In recent years, the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has not abated. The attention however given to it by the international community has decreased over time. Notable expressions of this dramatic humanitarian reality are the extensive operations in favour of IDPs in Somalia, in Iraq, in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in Colombia, to mention just a few. The international community has also been active in the policy and norms side with the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the Kampala Convention and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s Policy on Internal Displacement.
On the whole, we believe that the humanitarian response to urgent needs during ‘acute’ phases of armed conflict has improved, but this is just the “tip of the iceberg” and displacement continues to destroy and disrupt the lives and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), through its assistance and protection activities, responds to the needs of people displaced and of their host communities in some 35 Countries today. It also maintains its efforts to prevent the displacement of people. While doing this, the ICRC also promotes respect for the protection accorded to IDPs by international humanitarian law, human rights law, and relevant international standards.
(...) it is not necessarily the first year of displacement that is the hardest or most complicated for the people affected. It is the years after, when media interest has subsided and resources start to become scarce."
On this occasion, the ICRC would like to draw special attention to the critical situation, in some forty countries, of people affected by protracted displacement. In our experience, it is not necessarily the first year of displacement that is the hardest or most complicated for the people affected. It is the years after, when media interest has subsided and resources start to become scarce. These people, numbering many millions, may have evaded the most pressing dangers, but they are often forced to endure immense uncertainty about their future or to live with the constant threat of forcible eviction. All too often, they must also cope with lack of access to adequate housing, education, health services, and income-generating opportunities, which can last for many years. In some cases this is due to ambiguity over their legal status or a lack of necessary documents. There is an urgent need to ensure that those subjected to long-term displacement be able to benefit from social welfare systems and development projects to the same extent as other sections of the population; and that they have access to their basic rights and to durable solutions, be it local integration, voluntary return or relocation.
The ICRC, together with the States concerned and National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, is paying particular attention to important areas of humanitarian concerns related to displacement. These include freedom of movement, preservation of the family unit, the prohibition against forced return, respect for property rights, and acceptable conditions for return such as security, access to services and economic activities, and clearance of landmines.
In this regard, an example from the field may be illustrative. In one context, IDPs in large urban centres – driven there by violence in the rural areas where they originally lived – found that their traditional coping mechanisms were no longer effective in this new setting. After studying patterns of vulnerability and the system of social welfare established by the government, ICRC delegates took up the matter with the authorities and the National Society and some proposals were made to help addressing some of the problems identified. It was then decided that volunteers from the National Society explain the functioning of the social welfare system to the IDPs, as well as the process of applying for and receiving benefits that they are entitled to. In addition, the most vulnerable groups among the IDPs are given assistance to cover their immediate needs until the government benefits become available.
In conclusion, the ICRC urges governments, as well as humanitarian and development agencies, to pay heed to the needs of victims of long-term displacement. These needs, should remain a matter of great concern to governments and to pertinent agencies, and should be a priority in their agendas. The ICRC, in its field operations, will continue to work towards this end, to the best of its ability and in support of the concerned governments.