Tag Archives: NRC

Article on HLP rights and durable solutions in GPC Digest

by Rhodri C. Williams

A short piece I wrote on the relationship between ‘housing, land and property’ (HLP) rights and durable solutions for displaced persons has been published in the Global Protection Cluster Digest, vol. 1/2014, and can be accessed in pdf form here. I have also added the last draft before final edits just below.

The thrust of the piece will be pretty familiar to any regular readers of this blog. I’ve been going on about the steady demise of the Pinheiro Principles and their exclusive focus on restitution (over other forms of reparation) for some time now. As precedents like the ECHR Demopoulos decision and humanitarian changes in tack like the IDP Durable Solutions Framework crowded in, it became ever more clear that a more balanced approach was justified.

Indeed, even before the spike in global displacement seen since 2011, growing awareness of the problem of protracted displacement had put local integration front and center in international discussions of durable solutions. Where displacement persists because return is not on the table, continuing to emphasize the future hope of restitution can distract both displaced persons and host communities from practical steps to ameliorate the here and now. Meaning that a more balanced approach was also necessary.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

by Rhodri C. Williams

I didn’t really come across International Women’s Day until I started work in Bosnia and I never quite knew what to make of it. It had a distinctly east of the Oder-Neisse and non-aligned feeling to it, and the idea of cabining all one’s gender analysis into a single day of the year – and manifesting it through mechanical male-to-female flower transfers – didn’t seem entirely satisfying.

That said, there seems to be a healthy tendency for IWD to be taken as an opportunity for serious reflection on the state of gender equality. And that doesn’t just apply to places with notorious issues like Colombia but also to countries like Sweden, where decades of impressive progress only serve to highlight the unsatisfying fact that equality remains elusive. While a persistent salary-gap is the most obvious symptom, complaints roll in around this time of year ranging from the virtual absence of women from corporate boards to some of the highest rates of harassment in the EU.

For those of you interested in an updated global take on equality, the BBC has a good interactive map broken down both by region and broad themes (health, education, economic empowerment, political participation). However, my absolute favorite graphic on equality for this year is this amazing compilation by the Guardian that breaks down by region and categories of legal rights, including property ownership. While it is not entirely comprehensive (some issues like women’s right to retain their last name after marriage are left out) it still presents an extraordinary tool.

As a final point, expect more on the link between post-conflict humanitarian response, women’s property rights and access to justice on TN soon. This in reflection of the fact that securing equal access and tenure rights for women is increasingly recognized as one of the most meaningful areas linking the work of humanitarian actors concerned with the land claims of the displaced – such as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) – and those of rule of law and development actors concerned with access to justice.

Women tend to suffer both from disproportionate vulnerability in humanitarian settings and disenfranchisement in development settings. Societies suffer as a result, both in humanitarian cases where disproportionately female-headed households are unable to reintegrate into society, and in development cases where the human and economic potential of women is wasted. As discussed by Dr. Donny Meertens of Colombia here on the Reinventing the Rules blog, securing women’s land rights is now seen as a key to turning these dynamics around, facilitating durable solutions to displacement, social justice and more equitable development.

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.

From shelter to housing: New NRC report on tenure security and displacement

by Rhodri C. Williams

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) just released a substantial study I wrote for them on the right to security of tenure and how it relates to interim shelter needs and long-term durable solutions for both refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is a long read, but I would recommend it to those interested in these topics as my most comprehensive attempt to date to articulate the legal and policy dynamics of this important emerging area of humanitarian practice.

The background analysis in the study picks up on themes I developed earlier with regard to Liberia (also for the NRC), as well as Serbia (for the Brookings Institution) and Iraq (for the US Institute of Peace). These include the need for humanitarian actors to continue their engagement with both human rights and development discourses related to access to housing and security of tenure. The nexus with human rights emerges clearly from the moment of displacement, given the increasing trend (as reflected in the Sphere Standards) toward aligning humanitarian shelter provision with the human right to adequate housing. In accordance with commonly accepted understandings of this right, this means that even transitional shelter should meet basic standards of adequacy and be provided in a manner that ensures an appropriate level of tenure security to its occupants.

Meanwhile, the nexus with development standards relates to the insight that an increasing number of both refugees and IDPs find themselves in situations of protracted displacement. As a result (and as described in my earlier study on Serbia), measures to provide interim shelter solutions for displaced persons may quickly take on a de facto permanent character, and should often be planned with this eventuality in mind. This implies that pro-poor urban development standards (such as those developed by UN-HABITAT) should be applied wherever possible to allow the community-driven upgrading of IDP and refugee settlements. It also implies that development standards regarding involuntary resettlement should complement human rights standards in guaranteeing legal security of tenure for the displaced.

In the current NRC study, the case studies chosen related to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as well as IDPs in Georgia. Application of the relevant standards on tenure security is difficult in both cases, but for entirely different reasons. In the case of Lebanon, refugees do not (unlike IDPs) enjoy a right to seek local integration as a durable solution. However, the particular political sensitivities in Lebanon have led to a situation in which efforts to prevent local integration have led to restrictions in areas such as access to housing that cannot easily be reconciled with the country’s international obligations.

In the case of Georgian IDPs, there has been a determined and ambitious effort to facilitate integration in a manner that does not foreclose the eventual possibility of property restitution and return. However, significant complications have arisen in part because this program has been aligned with a broader attempt to privatize state-owned property. This has led to some some difficulties in a program to allow IDPs to buy the shelter allotted to them in buildings subject to privatization as well as questions regarding what can be done for the large proportion of IDPs still sheltered in private accommodation.

It is important to recognize the initiative of the NRC, and particularly its Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) program, in driving these issues forward. The ICLA program has in many respects led the way in terms of seeking effective property remedies for the displaced in the field, and have now pivoted quickly to address new concerns related to tenure security where such remedies are not forthcoming. As always, I benefited a great deal from the insights and hospitality of my NRC colleagues while preparing this report, and it is my fond hope that some of them will guest-post on TN soon with both updates on the specific case-studies covered in the report and comments about their other ongoing initiatives in the area of housing, land and property rights.

Consultancy on the HLP rights of internally displaced women in Iraq

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is seeking a consultant to advise its Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) program in Iraq on addressing the needs of internally displaced women in informal settlements. As set out in the ToRs (which are available in the ‘resources’ section of this blog) the basic issue relates to the tenure security of all IDPs, given that most settlements are located on state-owned land.

The threat of evictions in such scenarios – and the relevant human rights and development standards – are fairly familiar but not consistently applied. Just over a year ago, for instance, I developed an analysis on precisely this topic for the US Institute of Peace Rule of Law Network. Reference in the current ToRs to the planned  “relocation of many IDP communities as a solution in order to reclaim public lands in the capital, as part of the ‘Baghdad Initiative’” (along with a similar ongoing effort in Diyala) indicate that respect for such standards is more important than ever. However, previous analyses of this situation have not necessarily incorporated a level of gender analysis that corresponds to the realities of Iraq’s IDP settlements:

Conflict and forced displacement have led to the loss of land, homes and personal documentation for IDPs in informal settlements in Baghdad, which has impacted particularly on women. Iraq faces a severe housing crisis. Property is expensive and access to credit for housing very limited. These factors combine to force many IDPs and, in particular, female-headed households, to continue living in the settlements. Given the lack of basic infrastructure, poor sanitary and shelter conditions, this is a choice of last resort. One in eight IDP households is headed by a single female. In many settlements, the majority of women are illiterate and in some cases, confined to the domestic environment.

Potential applicants should contact Robert Beer at pm@iraq.nrc.no with any questions (sooner rather than later).

NRC consultancy on customary land dispute resolution in South Sudan

NRC has advertised a one month consultancy working on customary law issues related to land administration and dispute adjudication in South Sudan. This is a very important initiative on NRC’s part and a great opportunity to contribute to the development of informed practice in this highly challenging area. See the ToRs posted in the resource page of this blog. The timeline is quite short, so if you are interested, qualified and available, please contact Laura Cunial (laura.cunial@nrc.no) in order to receive the invitation to bid.

Squatters, IDPs or both? Untangling urban displacement in Liberia

by Rhodri C. Williams

I’m happy to announce the release of a report I wrote (available for download here) for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Liberia Office based on recent fieldwork. The report focuses on the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people displaced to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, during the 1989-2003 conflict who chose unassisted integration into local informal settlements over assisted return to their homes of origin elsewhere in the country.

In resisting the expectation that they would return by becoming urban squatters, these internally displaced persons (IDPs) dropped off the radar of many humanitarian actors. However, their continued presence – which may have effectively doubled the population of Monrovia – has become a development question as infrastructure projects, investors and returning landowners begin to place pressure on the Capital’s many slums. The significance and potential volatility of the issue is reflected in the Liberian Land Commission’s decision to prioritize urban land issues in 2011.

In this context, it is very much to NRC’s credit that they have recognized the continuing humanitarian implications of what had come to be viewed almost solely as a development challenge. To quote from my report, the issue of urban displaced squatters in Liberia can be seen a classic exercise in the emerging discipline of ‘early recovery’, or the attempt to design both relief and development measures in a coordinated and complementary manner:

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