Tag Archives: IDMC

Global conflict-induced displacement at highest level since 1994

by Rhodri C. Williams

During any given spring in the past, the release of the global internal displacement figures by the IDMC followed by the overall displacement numbers from UNHCR came as a malign one-two punch. Even in the salad days of the mid-2000s, the ostensibly ‘stabilized’ figures of around 25 million conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) and around 12 million refugees involved huge numbers by any count, staggering in their relentless accretion of human misery and broken lives. And all the more so as consciousness dawned of the rising tide of disaster displacement (and a studious silence about the additional millions uprooted by development projects persisted).

But with all that in our luggage, this year has been particularly bad. First came IDMC in April with the unwelcome news that conflict-related internal displacement (and by implication, the re-emergence of regional and internal armed conflicts) had been written off far too early. And now comes UNHCR pointing to 45.2 million deracinated lives at the end of 2012. Before you even count a further six months of rampant displacement in Syria, in other words, we see the worst overall conflict displacement numbers since 1994, the year the Rwanda genocide began and it seemed the Bosnia war would never end (and no one even had the energy to ask what was happening in the north and south Caucasus anymore).

Gird your loins humanitarians, it looks like we called it too early.

That 1990s feeling, or how conflict-related internal displacement never really went away

by Rhodri C. Williams

As we enter a series of twenty year milestones from the meltdown of the former Yugoslavia, it has been a bit too easy for many of us who came of age back then to reflect on internal conflicts – the crucible in which the internal displacement advocacy movement was forged – as a phase we were all moving beyond. Until recently.

Until recently, it was possible to think of conflict displacement as a ‘first wave’, still problematic in the sense that frozen conflicts from the 1990s had entrenched patterns of protracted internal displacement, but no longer of primary concern. With some of the initial nationalist spasms of the post-Cold War thaw exhausted and a practiced UN-led peace-building and mediation response at the ready, it has been easy enough to be lulled by the overall statistics on declining numbers of active internal conflicts.

Moreover, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and dawning awareness of the effects of climate change, an effective advocacy campaign by then-Rapporteur on Internal Displacement Walter Kälin shifted attention firmly to rights-based responses to a ‘second wave’ of internal displacement, that caused by natural disasters. As reflected in the UN Human Rights Council’s recent undertaking to address internal displacement , the focus on disasters has come to define much of the advocacy in the field, to some degree eclipsing conflict concerns. Meanwhile, a third wave looms as pressure on land and natural resources gives a sharp new edge to the issue of development-induced displacement.

Reading all this, one would be tempted to take some relief in the fact that each new impending crisis appears to be accompanied by changed conditions or improved responses that help to ameliorate the last. If only it were so tidy. While the peaking of sectarian violence in Iraq after 2006 was a wake-up call to the persistence of internal conflict and displacement, it had begun to look like an isolated incident again until recently. However, with Syria now presenting a full-blown ‘human catastrophe’ and Burma accused of  crimes against humanity in Rakhine state, conflict displacement is once again center stage in all its awful glory.

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Norwegian Refugee Council releases new Housing, Land and Property training course

by Laura Cunial

Laura Cunial is the lead author and trainer for the NRC/IDMC Housing Land and Property Training Course. She has worked on housing, land and property (HLP) rights and peacebuilding in countries such as Liberia, Kenya, Vietnam and Dijbouti and currently works as an Adviser for the Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) Program with the NRC.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) have, in collaboration with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), developed a training course on Housing, Land and Property (HLP) issues.  The material has been developed under the NRC’s Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) programme  with funds provided by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).

The development of the HLP Training Course is part of NRC’s effort to further improve its work through the mainstreaming of HLP considerations into all programming.  The humanitarian community recognizes that HLP issues are main conflict drivers and that they should be addressed from the earliest stages of humanitarian interventions. As a result, NRC has invested significant resources to increase its knowledge on HLP and improve its response, including the methodologies used for resolving housing, land and property disputes.

NRC has  been at the forefront for many years in providing assistance on HLP issues to displaced persons and other populations affected by conflict. This has been done both through NRC’s interventions related to the shelter and food security sectors, and through highly specialised ICLA programmes. The HLP Training Course aims at improving the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response through improved capacity on HLP issues. The course material is designed for all humanitarians implementing response and recovery projects and is not just meant for HLP specialists.

The course material has been tested in several NRC Country Programs. The evaluation of the relevance and quality of each training session was used to improve the subsequent trainings and to refine the modules.  In addition, the material was developed in consultation with the HLP sub-working group of the Global Protection Cluster Working Group. As a result, the training material is versatile and can be tailored to different training needs and target audiences.

The NRC HLP Training Manual is currently available in English, French and Spanish and consists of the following modules:

  • Module No. 1: An introduction to Housing, Land and Property
  • Module No. 2: The Housing, Land and Property International Legal Framework and Principle
  • Module No. 3: Housing, Land and Property during internal displacement
  • Module No. 4: Women’s Housing, Land and Property rights
  • Module No. 5: Housing, Land and Property in urban contexts
  • Module No. 6: Addressing Housing, Land and Property disputes
  • Module No. 7: Housing, Land and Property and durable solutions

Since early 2011, NRC has delivered more than 15 HLP trainings in the following locations: South Sudan, Afghanistan, the occupied Palestinian territory, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Switzerland, Pakistan, Colombia and Ivory Coast. Trainees included staff from NRC, international and national NGOs, ICRC, UN agencies  such as OCHA, OHCHR, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR and UN HABITAT  as well as national authorities.

The material can be requested by downloading a request form from the training manual web page and sending it to the email address hlp@nrc.no. More information on ICLA and the HLP Training Course are available on the NRC ICLA web page.

Land issues at the core of ethnic violence and internal displacement in north-east India

By Anne-Kathrin Glatz

Anne-Kathrin Glatz is a country analyst at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). IDMC’s report This is our land”: Ethnic violence and internal displacement in north-east India” can be accessed here.

The north-eastern region of India, which consists of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, has seen many episodes of armed conflict and generalised violence since India’s independence in 1947. Some of these situations caused massive internal displacement, of hundreds of thousands of people. Currently more than 76,000 people remain in internal displacement in Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura due to such violence, according to conservative estimates provided in IDMC’s new report.

Conflict and violence in north-east India have had different causes, including violent competition for land and political power. Rebel groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland have fought for outright independence for their ethnic group, while other groups have strived to reach some level of autonomy. Related, the increasing scarcity of collective land available to indigenous people has led some to instigate violence against people they regard as “outsiders” in order to change ethnic demographics in their favour. Inter-ethnic violence between indigenous groups has also led to internal displacement.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India has been a means for some groups to establish a de facto ethnic “homeland”. It recognises “Tribal Areas” administered through Autonomous Councils, and thereby provides special protection to some “tribes” in the north-east. A demographic majority in an area is necessary for groups to seek this status. This has created grievances among minorities living in territories falling under Autonomous Councils. The hundreds of ethnic groups in north-east India do not live in distinct areas, and so their demands for ethnic homelands have often led to generalised violence and, in turn, internal displacement aimed at “ethnically cleansing” an area.

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Housing, land and property issues obstruct integration of IDPs in protracted displacement

by Nadine Walicki

Nadine Walicki is a country analyst and advisor on protracted internal displacement at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). As previously reported on TN, the reports referred to below as well as other key relevant documents are available on the IDMC durable solutions web page.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in protracted displacement in some 40 countries. These are situations where solutions to displacement are absent or inadequate and IDPs cannot fully enjoy their rights as a result. Housing, land and property issues are usually central to the resolution of protracted displacement. This applies to the homes IDPs leave behind and the new ones they build after fleeing. Many IDPs have yet to receive a remedy for property lost or destroyed at their place of origin, while they live in substandard housing and struggle to access land in their area of displacement.

In early 2011, displacement experts gathered at an international seminar to discuss the potential of local integration as a solution to protracted displacement. Case studies on local integration of IDPs in Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Serbia, Sudan (southern) and Uganda were prepared to serve as the basis for the discussion. The result was a Statement of Principles and a compilation of good practices and recommendations, which were recently published in the seminar report. Among other key issues, seminar participants outlined several housing, land and property challenges that obstruct local integration of IDPs in protracted displacement. These include tenure insecurity, lack of effective mechanisms to restore property rights, limited access to land, inadequate housing, as well as lack of legal frameworks and access to justice.

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New report on protracted internal displacement – Nadine Walicki to guest post on HLP issues and local integration

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.

Colombia passes a Victim’s Law promising land restitution and broader redress

by Sebastián Albuja

Sebastián Albuja is the country analyst for Colombia for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). He previously guest-posted on earlier drafts of the current Colombian restitution legislation here. In light of the possibility that further changes to the legislation may come about as a result of a possible conciliation process between the two houses of the Colombian legislature, Sebastián has kindly offered to provide further updates if necessary. A pdf version of the current draft will also shortly be available at the IDMC Colombia page.

The Colombian Congress recently passed a law to provide reparations to the victims of conflict and set up a property restitution plan.  The so-called ‘Victim’s Law,’ which has been in the making since September 2010, has been much awaited by hundreds of thousands of victims of violence and human rights abuses in Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict.

The law has been hailed as an important accomplishment for the victims of conflict and land dispossession, and IDMC, whose 2010 report supported the initiative and commented on the bill’s text, joins in welcoming the adoption of the Victim’s Law.  In a highly charged political environment, and trailing on a path of similar failed initiatives, the political deal brokered by the majority is no minor accomplishment.  With this law, the Colombian Government has taken a step in the right direction to redress the victims of a conflict they did not seek, and to discharge its obligations under Colombian and International Law.

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Week in links – week 12/2011

The current march of historic events continues apace with the aftermath of the Sendai quake still causing headlines and a new chapter in the annals of R2P being written in the skies over Libya. Quite a few bits of less dramatic but very interesting HLP-related news as well, many detailed below.

Some interesting things coming up on TN as well – in addition to a number of individual guest-postings currently in the works, I am very excited to announce that Landesa has offered to periodically cross-post pieces from their excellent Field Focus blog. Look out for a debut piece early this week.

Turning to the news, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) just released their global overview for 2010. The conclusions are sobering, with a new rise in overall conflict-related internal displacement and the consolidation of a number of negative trends such as protracted displacement situations and displacement due to generalized violence (e.g. criminal activities as opposed to ordinary armed conflict).

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, recently submitted his annual report, this year with a plug for ‘agroecology’ – a cultivation technique identified by Mr. De Schutter after an “extensive review of the scientific literature” as most likely to help states “achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food.” Kudos to Mr. De Schutter for sparing the rest of us the scientific literature and moving the debate over global agriculture in an interesting new direction.

In the wake of the triple catastrophe in Japan, the New York Times reports on how much of the affected coast was inhabited by elderly persons unlikely to rebuild. In the clinical terminology of climate change, the obvious question is whether the abandonment of many of these obliterated towns and villages will ultimately come to be seen as a form of adaptation to be replicated in other parts of the world. As the Times notes, it is hardly the first time the question has come up:

“We faced exactly the same question after Katrina,” said John Campbell, [a] visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo. “There was a big discussion about whether we should rebuild the Ninth Ward, since it was below sea level, and so on. In terms of economic rationality, it didn’t make any sense, really. But on the other hand, it’s where these people lived, and there were emotional reasons to do it.

Meanwhile the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) released its mid-term review, halfway through the ten year period envisioned for implementation of the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action. In an almost morbid quirk of timing, the document was released two days before the catastrophe in Japan, rendering its calls for greater attention to disaster risk eerily antiquated: “…the Hyogo Framework for Action is the world’s only blueprint for staving off losses caused by natural hazards, often overshadowed by news on losses from war, unemployment or inflation.” With all due respect to Col. Ghadafi’s current bout of attention-seeking, this shouldn’t be an issue now.

After quite a lot of coverage earlier this year, the renewed efforts to achieve land restitution in Colombia fell off TN’s radar somewhat. However, things seem to be moving forward – here, NPR reports on how some land has already been returned to displaced owners (it is unclear on what basis this has occurred) as well as on how restitution remains tied to broader agricultural reform goals.

Finally, having cited EurasiaNet earlier on the lengths gone to by Azerbaijan’s IDPs to avoid locally integrating in order to maintain their prospects for return, I have now found a companion piece on Transitions OnLine on how far Armenians in contested territories will go in order to maintain their competing claims:

The people here acknowledge that life in villages is difficult and boring, especially when there is no electricity. But they persevere. “This land needs to be tended,” Khachatryan says. “My children have to plant trees, harvest crops, and have children here to understand this is the homeland and it needs to be kept,” Khachatryan says, lighting the oil lamp with care.

Choosing in the absence of choice: Protracted displacement and integration

by Rhodri C. Williams

This week, my blogging is likely to suffer a bit as a result of my participation in a timely and interesting meeting on protracted displacement. The conference – or more accurately, the “Second Expert Seminar on Protracted Internal Displacement” – is supported by a dedicated webpage at IDMC with a good overview of what will be discussed and a useful selection of background documents.

The prior ‘first expert seminar’ in 2007 addressed the problem of protracted internal displacement quite broadly and provided an important service by simply defining it. The definition selected departed somewhat from those proposed in the past for for protracted refugee situations in that it dispensed with minimum durations of displacement or numbers of people affected in favor of focusing on the obstacles posed to internally displaced persons’ (IDPs’) rights and dignity by the sheer fact that prospects for voluntary durable solutions remain indefinitely remote.

The current seminar focuses on local integration as a solution to displacement. As described in my background paper on Serbia, as well as the five other highly informative case-studies commissioned for this meeting, local integration may often be inevitable but is rarely a popular political choice. For instance, in conflict-related displacement situations, integration may be seen by the authorities and even IDPs themselves as undermining policies meant to ensure the reintegration of breakaway regions through mass return.

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IDMC report: Colombia restitution bill represents significant progress but concerns remain

by Sebastián Albuja

IDMC has just published a report on land restitution for IDPs in Colombia, entitled ‘Building momentum for land restoration: Towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia.’ The report examines progress towards property restitution for IDPs in Colombia, placing a restitution bill recently introduced by the Government in the context of previous initiatives, analyzing its contents and potential obstacles, and offering recommendations to guarantee victims’ rights in the process. We are glad to introduce the report here and we invite TN readers to download it at our website.

Protracted internal armed conflict and massive human rights abuses by illegal armed groups in Colombia have resulted in extensive loss of land by internally displaced people (IDPs) over the last decades. The number of IDPs is estimated to be between 3.3 and 4.9 million, most of them peasants, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians. Roughly half of all internally displaced families owned or occupied land before their displacement, and virtually all of them have lost it as a result.

Displacement and land loss have also meant loss of livelihoods—around half of Colombia’s IDPs were above the poverty threshold before displacement, compared with only three per cent afterwards.  Giving IDPs back their land is therefore an urgent task as it is a hugely complex one.

There have been several attempts to start a restitution process in the last five years, but none of them have been successful, mostly because the government’s will to return land to IDPs has been shown lacking. The Constitutional Court has taken steps to encourage restitution.  In January 2009, it ordered the government to take comprehensive steps to redress the land rights of IDPs and to put in place mechanisms to prevent future violations.

The newly-installed Santos administration pledged during the election campaign to restitute land to Colombia’s IDPs and has now taken steps to fulfill its promise by bringing a bill for land restitution to Congress in September 2010. The bill offers a realistic opportunity to provide restitution, based on government support that previous attempts lacked.

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