INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT: Africa leads the way with new regional Convention

Summary: The UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons today welcomed the entering into force of a new regional Convention in Africa to address the plight of millions of displaced persons.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, made the following statement to mark the coming into force of the Kampala Convention:

“Today, Africa has achieved a milestone and demonstrated its leadership in addressing one of the most pressing humanitarian issues in the world. With the coming into force of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa – also known as the Kampala Convention*- we see the birth of the first ever binding regional instrument on internal displacement.

Out of the 26 million persons internally displaced due to conflict or human rights violence in 2011, an estimated 10 million were in Africa, with at least a further half million internally displaced due to sudden onset natural disasters, such as floods. While precise figures are not yet available, the continent is also impacted by displacement related to slow onset natural disasters, such as desertification and more frequent droughts, associated with the effects of climate change.

However, I believe that the significance of the Kampala Convention goes beyond Africa – as an international model this comprehensive Convention represents the culmination of over two decades of work during which Governments, civil society and the international community have sought to improve the way we address the plight of millions of internally displaced persons across the globe.

In many contexts, the situation of internally displaced persons affects the stability of states. This is especially the case in post conflict /crisis situations, as I have seen through my missions for example, in Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan. The Kampala Convention can contribute to stabilizing displaced populations through the specific obligations it sets out to States and other actors, such as obligations relating to humanitarian assistance, compensation, and assistance in finding lasting solutions to displacement as well as accessing the full range of their human rights.

The unique ‘added value’ of this Convention stems from how comprehensive it is and the manner in which it addresses many of the key challenges of our times, and indeed, of Africa. If implemented well, it can help States and the African Union address both current and potential future internal displacement related not only to conflict, but also natural disasters and other effects of climate change, development, and even mega trends such as population growth and rapid urbanization. The Convention provides a solid legal framework for dealing with many of the complex dynamics of internal displacement in Africa today.

The Convention is significant in many respects. It sets out the obligations of the State parties, but also of the African Union, international organizations and members of armed groups, to prevent displacement, protect and assist people once displacement has occurred, and to find lasting solutions to displacement. Under the Convention, States have specific obligations to allocate resources, adopt national policies and strategies and enact or amend national laws to ensure that displacement is prevented and that IDPs are protected and supported until they reach a sustainable solution to their displacement.

Based on the spirit of partnership on which the Kampala Convention is founded, it is vital that the international and donor communities now support African States, the African Union and civil society in raising awareness and building the capacities to implement the Convention. This is and will remain one of the key priorities of my mandate over the next few years.

I also urge those States that have not yet done so, to sign and ratify this landmark Convention, which embodies principles of good governance, respect for human rights and preparedness so necessary to prevent and address the human crisis related to situations of internal displacement.”

More about the Convention

(*) The Kampala Convention, which was adopted in October 2009 and has been signed by 37 African Union Member States, has come into force today – one month after receiving the 15th ratification by Swaziland on 6 November 2012.

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