Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why land matters for mine action

by Sharmala Naidoo and Szilard Fricska

Sharmala Naidoo is an Advisor for the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining’s (GICHD) Mine Action, Security and Development Programme. Szilard Fricska is Senior Humanitarian Coordinator with UN-HABITAT in Geneva.

Back in 2010, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) commissioned research on the links between mine action (demining, etc) and land rights, which Jon Unruh discussed on this blog. The research findings indicated that mine action organisations encounter land-related issues during the course of their operations, but that many refrain from addressing them based on the view that land issues are not part of their mandate, are too complex or because they simply weren’t sure how to. Some organisations explained that they were concerned that discussing land issues might compromise their “neutrality”.

However, clearing land that is contaminated by mines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and making it available is not neutral. Ignoring land issues can result in several land-related risks for mine action organisations, which include creating new or exacerbating existing conflicts; land grabbing; putting mine action staff or communities at risk; delays to clearance operations while land “ownership” is clarified; and intentional damage to expensive demining equipment.

In response, GICHD partnered with UN-HABITAT to provide mine action organisations with practical guidance on how to ensure their operations take land issues into account, and at a minimum, ensure a “do no harm” approach. We recently published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document on land rights and mine action aimed at mine action organisations, which outlines some practical recommendations on how mine action organisations can mainstream land issues. Some of the main recommendations covered:  Continue reading

Advanced course on response to internal displacement

Just a brief note to TN readers to say that there are some spaces left for last minute applicants in a three day course I co-facilitate on internal displacement for the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA). This year’s “Specialized Training on Protection of Internally Displaced Persons” will take place from November 5-7 in Sida’s excellent training facility in the Swedish town of Härnösand. A few more details on the course as well as information on how to apply are available here.

This will be the fourth time I’ve taught this course and the second time I will have the pleasure of co-facilitating it with Susanne Ringgaard Pedersen, a 15 year veteran of human rights and protection monitoring in numerous conflict and disaster-based internal displacement settings. The course is targeted toward participants with significant experience and demonstrable interest in human rights and displacement issues, and has consistently been engaging and stimulating for me to be a part of. Part of the secret is the setting – Härnösand is only mid-Sweden, but it is probably as far north as most of us ordinary mortals will get in our lives. Its a charming place and with any luck the current onset of winter – low sun beaming over fresh snow – will hold for another week.

Hope to see some of you there!

Upcoming guest postings and recent HLP resources

An apology to TN readers for the sparseness of recent postings. It has been one of those periods where the non-blog related aspects of one’s life (there are a few) predominate and I am particularly grateful to recent guest bloggers such as Anneke Smit, Yulia AliyevaRoger Duthie and Megan Bradley for keeping things interesting. Most recently, Megan Bradley has teamed up again, this time with Mike Asplet, to co-author a very intriguing piece on how the new Kampala Convention deals with property issues in durable solutions.

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce a few upcoming guest-postings. These include a piece by Guido van Heugten based on his recent thesis on property restitution in Kosovo, as well as a co-authored update on land issues and de-mining by GICHD’s Sharmala Naidoo and UN-HABITAT’s Szilard Fricska. In addition, Ayla Gürel, with whom I previously collaborated on Cyprus research, will be introducing the PRIO Cyprus Centre’s innovative new project on tracking displacement and dispossession. Finally, I am hopeful that Anneke Smit may soon provide an update to her earlier observations on indigenous land ownership in Canada. And to top it off, I gather that Kaigyluu may once again be stirred to write on HLP issues in Kyrgyzstan.

With all that out of the way, there have been a number of developments on the housing, land and property front, and I would like to highlight just a few here. I am hoping that some of the involved parties may soon guest-post in more detail on them, but wanted to introduce them in brief and without further delay.

First, the Global Protection Cluster – the flagship body of the ongoing UN-led humanitarian reform process – has just launched a new website. Having migrated from the defunct humanitarianreform.org to the confusing oneresponse.info, it now has a home of its own. In addition to several thematic resources pages, the new site highlights the four GPC sub-working groups, or ‘areas of responsibility‘, including the UN-HABITAT-led AoR on housing, land and property issues. The HLP AoR site includes a useful overview of resources including both country-related and general references. While the former in particular still suffers from some notable gaps (Colombia?), it provides a very cogent set of references for other current HLP contexts and may be useful for practitioners and researchers alike.

Second,  the most recent Annual Report by Minority Rights Group International focuses squarely on the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights to land and natural resources – an issue that has taken on an increasingly important role in light of the ongoing pressure on these assets from both national governments and private investors.

The Kampala Convention on internal displacement in Africa: What does it mean for housing, land and property restitution?

by Mike Asplet and Megan Bradley

Mike Asplet is an attorney currently working with the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. Megan Bradley is a Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she works with the Brookings-LSE Project.

The African Union’s Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa will hopefully come into force any day now. When it does, it will be the first regional treaty to comprehensively address the IDP issue, from preventing displacement to providing protection and assistance, and supporting durable solutions. The Kampala Convention represents a critical new tool for tackling some of the largest and most complex IDP situations in the world: some 10 million people are internally displaced across the continent, making up one third of the world’s IDP population.

The treaty reflects well-established normative frameworks, primarily the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which have to date provided the foundation for IDP protection and assistance efforts. However, the Kampala Convention also significantly advances the normative framework on internal displacement in several key areas. These include protection from arbitrary displacement; the responsibilities of the African Union, multinational companies and private security actors; and the right to a remedy for the wrongs associated with displacement, including the loss of housing, land and property (HLP). The question of remedies for lost HLP is particularly important, as land conflict is at the root of many internal displacement flows in Africa, and the resolution of hotly contested land claims represents a key barrier to solutions for thousands of IDPs.

On first glance, it doesn’t seem like the Kampala Convention has much to say about land issues, and in particular the restitution of displaced persons’ lost property. In light of the popularization of the (contested) UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (the so-called “Pinheiro Principles”) and trends such as the now-common practice of explicitly addressing the restoration of displaced persons’ HLP rights in peace treaties, it is striking that there is no reference to restitution in the Kampala Convention. This omission is clearly deliberate. While many provisions from the Guiding Principles have been specifically incorporated into the Kampala Convention (in some places without amendment), the documents diverge considerably in their approach to question of HLP rights, and restitution in particular.

Continue reading