by Rhodri C. Williams
The full proceedings of last January’s Second Expert Seminar on Protracted Internal Displacement (previously posted on here) have now been published on a dedicated webpage by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The available texts include both a shorter report from the Seminar itself and a longer publication featuring observations on local integration as a solution to protracted internal displacement by Beth Ferris of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and the IDMC’s Nadine Walicki. The latter document also includes my own background report for the Seminar on protracted displacement in Serbia, Nadine’s on Georgia and four further reports on Burundi, Colombia, Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda.
The theme of the Seminar was the question of local integration as either an interim or a durable solution to internal displacement. Although integration often remains politically sensitive, international humanitarian actors have been increasingly willing to break the taboo on discussing this issue in light of a greater awareness of the potential consequences of not doing so. Perhaps the most salient point to be made is that keeping IDPs in limbo pending a breakthrough on return that may never come to pass virtually guarantees that they will not have the resilience to sustainably return if it does.
The shifting emphasis from return to integration was given perhaps its most emphatic expression to date by Patricia Weiss Fagen – author of the above-mentioned background report on Colombia – in a recent USIP briefing simply entitled: “Refugees and IDPs after conflict: Why they do not go home.” As Patricia notes, restitution has not lost its relevance, but there is a new consciousness that the challenges to integration may be no less significant than those to property restoration:
While reclaiming land or receiving compensation for losses is important, the challenge for many returnees is to settle where they can maintain sustainable livelihoods; find peaceful living conditions; have access to health care, education, and employment opportunities; and enjoy full rights of citizenship.
In some senses, focusing on integration in protracted displacement settings – where restitution may or may not ultimately be possible – means an effective doubling of the housing, land and property (HLP) challenge – not only must remedies for past violations of HLP rights be kept in the offing but the current HLP rights of the displaced must be respected going forward. Against this background, I am very pleased to announce that the IDMC’s Nadine Walicki will be guest-blogging in the coming days in order to highlight some of the key HLP-related insights emerging from both the Seminar proceedings and the background reports.