Tag Archives: Brookings

Doing justice for refugees and IDPs? Confronting displacement through transitional justice

by Roger Duthie and Megan Bradley

Roger Duthie is a Senior Associate in the Research Unit at the International Center for Transitional Justice. Megan Bradley is a Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where she works with the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement.

Serious human rights violations are very often an integral part of displacement crises. Certain violations, such as mass killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and rape, often cause displacement, while others, such as the destruction of homes and property, can be aimed at undercutting the possibility to return home. Forcible displacement is frequently a deliberate strategy used by parties to a conflict and can in itself constitute a war crime or a crime against humanity. In addition, displacement can leave its victims vulnerable to other abuses, without the protection provided by their homes, livelihoods, communities, and governance structures.

Transitional justice is generally understood to be a response to the legacies of massive and serious human rights violations, one that tries to provide redress for victims and accountability for perpetrators through a set of measures including criminal prosecution, truth-telling, reparation, and institutional reform. Given the links between rights violations and displacement, transitional justice measures certainly have good reasons to address the issue of displacement. And yet, for the most part, displacement has not been the focus of a lot of transitional justice practice and literature.

In 2009, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement began a collaborative research project to examine the role that transitional justice could play as part of the response to displacement. Specifically, we looked at the capacity of transitional justice measures to address displacement, to respond to the justice claims of internally displaced persons and refugees, and to support durable solutions. Importantly, we also looked at the conceptual links between transitional justice measures and the activities of the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding actors that generally work more directly on displacement.

The project’s final products include a report that highlights our conclusions and recommendations; an edited volume containing the project’s thematic studies; and 14 case studies on country experiences from Central Africa, Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Kosovo, Liberia, Peru, Timor-Leste, Turkey, and the former Yugoslavia. These are all available to download through the ICTJ and Brookings-LSE Project websites. ICTJ’s website also has an interactive map to highlight the research though photographs and visual data.

What were some of our most important findings? To start with, a number of recent reports, resolutions, and guidelines have acknowledged the need for societies struggling to resolve displacement crises to respond to the justice concerns of IDPs and refugees. These include the 2004 and 2011 versions of the Report of the Secretary-General on the Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-conflict Societies, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s 2010 Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons, the 2009 African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, and the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons.

Furthermore, while transitional justice measures have not traditionally engaged in depth with the concerns of refugees and IDPs, they have in some places addressed displacement. Restitution of housing, land, and property, for example, is the justice measure probably most directly connected to displacement, and restitution programs have been implemented in countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Timor, Kosovo, and Iraq.

Reparations programs can provide benefits for abuses that led to displacement, for harms suffered while displaced, or for displacement itself, but while programs in Guatemala, Peru, and Colombia consider displaced persons eligible to receive benefits, they are yet to receive any for the violation of displacement itself. Truth commissions, as in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, and Guatemala, are increasingly recognizing and investigating displacement, with some holding sessions making recommendations on the issue. And an international legal framework now exists to criminally prosecute arbitrary displacement when it qualifies as a war crime or crime against humanity, and cases at the ICC, the ICTY, and in Colombia have included charges of forcible displacement.

We also found that responding to displacement with transitional justice raises a particular set of challenges. For example, given the scope and complexity of large-scale displacement, transitional justice measures have a limited capacity to deal directly with the problem. This is particularly the case with measures that seek to provide redress directly to victims, because the large numbers of displaced people present significant resource and institutional challenges. Criminal justice efforts may also be constrained, both because, with limited resources, prosecutors often prioritize more traditional crimes and may be hesitant to add to the complexity of cases by including displacement crimes, but also because international jurisprudence on forcible displacement as a crime is less developed than it is for other violations.

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Can you be internally displaced for twenty years? Housing issues and protracted displacement in Azerbaijan

by Yuliya Aliyeva

Yuliya Aliyeva is a Senior Program Manager at the Caucasus Research Resource Center, Azerbaijan. This blog post is based in part on the publication she co-authored last year for the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, “‘Can you be an IDP for Twenty Years?’ A Comparative Field Study on the Protection Needs and Attitudes towards Displacement among IDPs and Host Communities in Azerbaijan”.  The report co-author, Tabib Huseynov, is the Caucasus Program Manager for Saferworld.

The ongoing conflict with neighbouring Armenia over Azerbaijan’s predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh produced one of the largest flows of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) seen during the deterioration process of the former Soviet Union. Today, some 595,000 people—or seven percent of the total population—remain internally displaced in Azerbaijan.[1] While the two states continue their posturing about the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani citizens await durable solutions to their displacement and continue to face major housing and property concerns in particular.

The conflict started in 1988 as Armenians demanded incorporation of Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia. As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992, leaving a huge power vacuum behind, inter-communal clashes escalated into a full-scale undeclared war between newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan. As a result of the fighting, which left some 25,000-30,000 people dead on both sides, Armenian forces gained control over Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts that together make up 13.6 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory. A cease-fire was signed in 1994, which has largely held until today, although the parties have been unable to resolve the political dispute regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

As IDPs fled the conflict areas, they were temporarily settled throughout Azerbaijan. Some of them settled in administrative buildings, schools, unfinished buildings, dormitories and sanatoriums. Others were placed in IDP camps, railway cars, dugout shelters and other sub-standard emergency shelters in rural areas. The housing conditions for some IDPs have improved over time and are now similar to those enjoyed by the general Azerbaijani population. However, for the majority of IDPs, proper housing is still only a dream.

Today, according to official statistics, 86 percent of IDPs in Azerbaijan live in urban areas (mainly in Baku and Sumgait).[2] According to a recent World Bank study, 42.5 percent of IDPs live in one-room accommodations, compared to only 9.1 percent of non-IDPs.[3] As a result, IDP families have an average of 36 square meters of living space compared to 74 square meters for non-IDP families.[4] That being said, there is some diversity among IDP populations and their housing situations. Overall, the IDPs can be divided into four categories based on housing conditions.

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Protection in the past tense: New book on displacement and transitional justice explores the role of restitution

by Rhodri C. Williams

This summer, the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) published a new edited volume on Transitional Justice and Displacement (click here for the free PDF version) together with the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. The book was based on an initial round of research papers and has been accompanied by a much shorter policy brief. All of these resources have been prominently featured on dedicated pages at both the ICTJ website and at Brookings. The volume forms part of a broader series on Advancing Transitional Justice and was edited by Roger Duthie, a senior associate at the ICTJ and a patient and thoughtful collaborator – qualities I appreciated greatly in drafting the third chapter of the book on housing, land and property (HLP) restitution.

The book’s authors chart the relationship between humanitarian responses to displacement and the traditional components of transitional justice (prosecution, truth-telling, institutional reform and reparations) along with more recently articulated concerns such as gender justice. The broader issue of reparations for displacement was ably addressed by Peter van der Auweraert, head of the IOM’s land and reparations program and past TN guest-blogger. In one sense, my chapter on HLP restitution was much narrower than Peter’s. After all, HLP violations are only one of the many types of injuries typically suffered in the course of displacement, and restitution is only one of the forms of redress that can be applied. At the same time, what I enjoyed most about writing the chapter was the opportunity it gave me to think at the broadest possible level about how the fundamental goals and methods of humanitarian action comport with those of transitional justice and even development assistance.

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Say it with a resolution: The UN marks two decades of work on internal displacement as new challenges emerge

by Rhodri C. Williams

I tend to count being slightly outside the Geneva loop as a net positive, but every once in a while it means that I get ambushed by major developments in my own field. This has been such a time, with the IDMC announcing the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption by consensus of a ‘historical resolution‘ on internal displacement. As much as I would love to deliver the inside dish on fledgling Resolution A/HRC/20/L.14’s existential significance, I must leave the honors to IDMC:

The substantive resolution is, for the first time, independent from the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on IDPs, representing a strengthened commitment from UN Member States to recognise their own role in promoting and protecting the human rights of IDPs.

So, it seems that the joint and several UN Rapporteurs on internal displacement have so successfully mainstreamed human rights-based approaches to the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) that the UN can promote them on its own. Good news considering the controversy that IDP advocacy efforts have occasionally sparked in the past (see Erin Mooney’s wonderful piece on the early IDP debates). However, I was taken aback to read an observation on the timing of the resolution in its preamble:

Welcoming the twentieth anniversary of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons and the considerable results achieved since its creation,

A few things went through my mind at this point. One (facetiously) was that it was a bit cheeky of the Council to celebrate the mandate’s twentieth birthday by beginning to make it redundant. But the other was genuine disbelief that we have already been witness to two decades of IDP advocacy. Having started law school in 1996, the height of the post-Cold War, pre-9/11 human rights window, I was hardly present at the creation but had at least heard about it in real time.

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From National Responsibility to Response – Part II: IDPs’ Housing, Land and Property Rights

by Elizabeth Ferris, Erin Mooney and Chareen Stark

This post continues our discussion of the study entitled “From Responsibility to Response: Assessing National Response to Internal Displacement” recently released by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement.

Addressing housing, land, and property (HLP) issues is a key component of national responsibility. Principle 29 of the non-binding but widely accepted Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement emphasizes that competent authorities have a duty to assist IDPs to recover their property and possessions or, when recovery is not possible, to obtain appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation.

The 2005 Framework for National Responsibility – which set the benchmarks we applied in our current study – reaffirms this responsibility (in Benchmark 10, “support durable solutions”) and flags a number of the challenges that often arise, such as IDPs’ lack of formal title or other documentary evidence of land and property ownership; the destruction of any such records due to conflict or natural disaster; and discrimination against women in laws and customs regulating property ownership and inheritance.  The Framework for National Responsibility stresses that, “Government authorities should anticipate these problems and address them in line with international human rights standards and in an equitable and non-discriminatory manner.”

The extent to which a government has safeguarded HLP rights, including by assisting IDPs to recover their housing, land, and property thus was among the indicators by which we evaluated the efforts of each of the 15 governments examined in our study. Our findings emphasized the importance of both an adequate legal and policy framework for addressing displacement related HLP issues and the role that bodies charged with adjudication and monitoring can play in ensuring implementation.

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From National Responsibility to Response – Part I: General Conclusions on IDP Protection

by Elizabeth Ferris, Erin Mooney and Chareen Stark

The Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement recently released a study entitled “From Responsibility to Response: Assessing National Response to Internal Displacement“. The study examined 15 out of the 20 countries with the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations—Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda and Yemen.

According to estimates, these 15 countries represent over 70 percent of the world’s 27.5 million conflict-induced IDPs.  Wherever possible, we also tried to include government efforts to address internal displacement by natural disasters. But in this and the subsequent blog post, we will focus on our main general conclusions as well as particular issues around housing, land and property (HLP) rights that emerged from our analysis (see Part II of this posting).

The study looks at how governments have fared in terms of implementing 12 practical steps (“benchmarks”) to prevent and address internal displacement, as outlined in the 2005 Brookings publication entitled “Addressing Internal Displacement: A Framework for National Responsibility.” The 12 benchmarks are as follows:

1. Prevent displacement and minimize its adverse effects.
2. Raise national awareness of the problem.
3. Collect data on the number and conditions of IDPs.
4. Support training on the rights of IDPs.
5. Create a legal framework for upholding the rights of IDPs.
6. Develop a national policy on internal displacement.
7. Designate an institutional focal point on IDPs.
8. Support national human rights institutions to integrate internal displacement into their work.
9. Ensure the participation of IDPs in decisionmaking.
10. Support durable solutions.
11. Allocate adequate resources to the problem.
12. Cooperate with the international community when national capacity is insufficient.

Stepping back from HLP issues (to be addressed in a subsequent set of comments in Part II of this guest posting), we drew several key observations on our overall findings. Continue reading

Upcoming guest postings by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement

by Rhodri C. Williams

Rounding out a run of guest-posting announcements, I am very pleased to introduce an upcoming set of contributions by the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. For those of you not familiar with the Project, it is a small unit within the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy section that has not only played an outsized role in promoting effective responses to internal displacement, but also in laying the ground for rights-based approaches to humanitarian crises at a broader level.

The Project has been closely associated with the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur tasked with advising on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 1992 (formally in the guise of a ‘Representative to the UN Secretary General or ‘RSG’ until 2010).  Thus, the ‘LSE’ component refers to the academic home of the current mandate holder, Chaloka Beyani. This comes after a 2004-2010 period as ‘Brookings-Bern’ in reference to prior mandate-holder Walter Kälin, and earlier stint as ‘Brookings-SAIS’ in association with the first RSG, Francis Deng.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the opportunity to work with Brookings early and often in my consultancy career not only made that career viable but also helped to expand my horizons tremendously. When the legendary IDP advocate Roberta Cohen plucked me out of obscurity to coordinate the development of a comprehensive manual on national response to internal displacement, I was quickly pushed out of my comfort zone of Balkan restitution issues and began to engage with the entire range of humanitarian, human rights and advocacy issues that still bedevil effective responses to the fundamental vulnerability of losing one’s home.

I am therefore happy to observe that Brookings is still going strong and recently published a raft of publications of both broad, humanitarian interest and more narrow relevance for the housing, land and property (HLP) community. The guest postings scheduled for the next weeks will feature a number of these.

First, Elizabeth Ferris, Brookings Project Co-Director, and her collaborators Erin Mooney and Chareen Stark will present their recent report From Responsibility to Response: Assessing National Approaches to Internal Displacement. The report builds on an assessment of the implementation of the non-binding but seminal UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in fifteen of the world’s countries “most affected by internal displacement due to conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations”. The authors not only review the general conclusions of the report but also elaborate some of the most important findings related to HLP issues in internal displacement settings.

Second, Roberto Vidal, law professor at the Javeriana University of Bogota, will be writing on property-related themes related to his extensive recent work with the Project. And, third, authors Yulia Gureyeva-Aliyeva and Tabib Huseynov will be writing on their recent Brookings report “Can You Be an IDP for Twenty Years?” A Comparative Field Study on the Protection Needs and Attitudes Toward Displacement Among IDPs and Host Communities in Azerbaijan. While numerous HLP issues arise in relation to protracted displacement in Azerbaijan, some of the most difficult reflect tensions between IDPs and host communities and have been litigated as far as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg:

At the time of displacement many IDPs in urban and rural areas arbitrarily seized houses and land, which belonged (or were assigned later) to local residents. According to executive decrees, IDPs cannot be evicted from their places of residence—even those which they do not legally own—unless they are provided with alternative living arrangements. This has led some homeowners to take their cases all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, which questioned the existing government practices as a violation of property rights.

UPDATE – the following guest-postings have now been published:

– Yulia Aliyeva, Can you be internally displaced for twenty years? Housing issues and protracted displacement in Azerbaijan (12 September 2012)

– From National Responsibility to Response – Part II: IDPs’ Housing, Land and Property Rights (22 February 2012)

 From National Responsibility to Response – Part I: General Conclusions on IDP Protection (21 February 2012)