Many thanks to the many readers, commenters and, most important of all, guest post contributors, who have helped TN grow up over a very short period from a mid-winter whim to a going concern. Especially given the somewhat short of mass market appeal of a blog like this, its been fun to see it take on a life of its own, and I hope next year will bring even more exciting developments. I plan to do a first birthday review in February, but can report that TN has received over 10,000 hits in its first ten months, signalling a relatively small but devoted audience, by blogosphere standards. Lots of good stuff in the pipeline for early 2011 and I am always interested in more, so please be in touch with comments, pitches for guest-posts or just holiday greetings!
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I’m informed that there are still a few spots available for the upcoming 2nd US Institute of Peace Course on Land, Property and Conflict (introduced earlier here). The Course takes place in Washington DC from December 13-16 and costs a reasonable $195 per participant. I have updated the full announcement (available here) to include the draft agenda and would urge TN readers to consider applying!
I’m happy to announce two very interesting guest postings coming this week.
First: first-time TN guest-blogger Sebastián Albuja will be launching a new report he helped to prepare on restitution issues in Colombia in his capacity as a country analyst for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The post will include observations on a number of specific articles of the new restitution bill (previously posted on here); for those of you with a particular interest and working knowledge of Spanish, feel free to cross-reference the text of the bill, which I have added to the new resources page of this blog.
And second, second-time TN guest-blogger Natalie Bugalski will be writing on the findings of a NGO investigation she participated in on resettlement of project-affected persons in Cambodia. The background is given in a recent article in the Age, which focuses on the tragic drowning deaths of two small children sent to collect water in a local pond because no water was available at the site where they had been resettled.
Given that the resettlement was undertaken in aid of a rail project underwritten by AusAID and the Asian Development Bank, the conditions that led to the deaths of the two children – and which continue to be endured by their community – should never have arisen. In this light, it is hard to know what is sadder – the unnecessary deaths of the children or the fact that it takes such a tragedy to draw attention to the *ordinary* suffering of thousands of others caught up in Cambodia’s development-induced displacement purgatory.
Last June, I posted on an inquiry about post-conflict occupation of public property in Iraq that was doing the rounds in a rule of law discussion forum on the US Institute of Peace’s International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPRoL) website. Since that time, I was asked to work on a ‘consolidated response’ to the query that took into account the various comments posted in response to the original query.
The result can be accessed on the INPRoL site. Below is a copy of the abstract:
This consolidated response reviews three human rights – freedom of movement, privacy, and adequate housing, as well as development standards on evictions, all of which emphasize the need to take all feasible steps to diminish the hardship to vulnerable groups resulting from evictions. It then describes a three factor balancing test, based on the human rights principles and development standards, which Iraq can utilize to ensure its practices adhere to international law and best practices. It is hoped that the presentation of this approach will be of assistance to the Iraqi authorities in identifying the most appropriate policies for addressing the issue of occupation of public property in a manner compatible with both international law and Iraq’s social and economic realities.
It was interesting writing the response as it confirmed my impression that human rights and development standards on evictions are fairly closely conceptually related even if they differ in their details and rarely reference each other. In making my recommendations, I tried to build on what I saw as synergies and encourage governments (well, in this case the Iraqi government) to give both sets of standards the weight they deserve.
A quick note to the readership to say that I’m neither still on vacation nor have I sworn off blogging in a moment of reckless abandon. I am however in the throes of a very busy reentry into the consultancy rounds and expect to only get back into my normal level of activities in a week or two.
I’m also not really sure what I would have to add to the ongoing commentary on the truly staggering situation in Pakistan, where every HLP anything in an area the size of Sweden has been washed away. Lets all give what we can to our favored humanitarian actors working there and hope that whatever Sweden-sized area we happen to be located in isn’t next.
TN’s summer siesta will shortly be interrupted again, this time for a fascinating posting by guest-blogger Natalie Bugalski on land conflicts in Cambodia. Her piece will give more details on the Boeung Kak land dispute in Phnom Penh that I previously posted on here. It will also give an updated description of the World Bank’s current attempts to find a way to engage the government of Cambodia on pro-poor land administration even as it awaits a finding of the World Bank Inspection Panel that may identify significant failures in its past programming in this area. Stay tuned!
Following on to my prior post on Haiti, FAO has now reported that rural reconstruction continues to lag behind in Haiti, primarily due to lack of funding. In doing so, the FAO describes its cooperation with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture and “over 170 non-governmental and international organizations” (!) in the agricultural cluster, providing an interesting example of an attempt to make the occasionally arcane terminology of humanitarian reform a bit more accessible to the general public.
Also interesting is the fact that investments in rural agriculture continue to be justified both on the basis of the decentralization concept and food security. In the words of FAO Senior Emergency and Rehabilitation Coordinator for Haiti Etienne Peterschmitt, “[g]reater investment in agriculture and the creation of jobs in rural areas are needed urgently to stem the flow of displaced people back into Port-au-Prince and to support food security throughout the country.” In addition, the FAO remains cognizant of the strain that hosting IDPs has placed on rural families:
“Immediately after the disaster hit in January we focussed on areas directly affected by the earthquake,” said Cristina Amaral, Chief of FAO Emergency Operations Service. “Now we are focussing on assisting host families whose coping mechanisms were severely strained by the influx of displaced persons into their communities and to prepare for the hurricane season.”
In other news, I am happy to announce that TN will soon be hosting a guest post on the Quilombos case in Brazil by Leticia Osorio and César Augusto Baldi. The post will give a thorough background briefing on the case involving the Quilombos indigenous people that is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Brazil. The forthcoming decision will determine the constitutionality of Presidential Decree 4887 of 2003 which regulates the procedure for granting property titles to Quilombo communities over the lands they occupy. The authors have also promised a follow-up guest posting once the Court’s decision is issued.
by Rhodri C. Williams
As three more months have raced by since my two month report, I thought one more administrative post might be in order before things slow down for the summer. The big news is that readership has gone up steadily with hits per month almost doubling from 732 in April to 1,344 in June. This has been gratifying, coming as my pace in posting has gotten more realistic after the initial burst of of energy last winter. I’ve got some family vacation coming up in July and the beginning of August, but I’m hoping to drop the odd post in myself now and then – and promise to rush any relevant guest posts to press as well.
by Rhodri C. Williams
I wanted to inform readers of both an interesting rule of law discussion forum – the US Institute of Peace’s International Network to Promote the Rule of Law (INPRoL) – and an interesting discussion that has emerged there based on the following inquiry:
Iraq Health Aid Organization is working with the Iraq Ministry of Displacement and Migration to support internally displaced peoples (IDPs). One issue that has arisen relates to displaced people who have been living in public properties and are now facing eviction or the threat of eviction from government officials. Are there any international norms or standards that should control the eviction of people from public property, particularly IDPs who have no other place to go?
Many of you out there are likely to have some very interesting insights on this discussion – based on experiences in Iraq and many other settings – and I wanted to preface this post by inviting you to join it. Literally. INPRoL is a membership-based resource, but becoming a member is relatively easy. If you would like to be a part of the above discussion or are interested in other issues INPRoL addresses, TN readers are invited to go to the membership application page and sign up, naming me as a nominating member. Once you are in, you can look for “Discussion Forums” in the left-hand menu, click on “General Rule of Law” and look for the discussion on “IDPs and property issues”.
As a preview, I have posted my own response to the Iraq inquiry:
Apologies to my readers for a recent gap in postings! I’ve been caught up in the ongoing USIP Land and Conflict training, but have a number of interesting items in the pipeline. First up is a guest-posting by Esteban Leon of UN Habitat. Esteban is very active in current efforts by the Cluster Working Group on Early Recovery in Geneva to develop better guidance to the field on land issues in conflict and disaster settings. In his post, Esteban will be introducing a new guidance on land and natural disasters that was recently finalized and published on UN Habitat’s disaster assessment portal. The guidance provides important insights on approaching this complex issue and comes at a timely moment in light of the steady march of both spectacular and mundane disasters across this season’s headlines.