OCTOBER 26, 2009: IDP Convention-Let the Hard Work Begin

IDP Convention-Let the Hard Work Begin


Kampala — Seventeen countries signed the African Union convention on internally displaced persons (IDPs) after years of preparation culminated in a week of meetings in the Ugandan capital but a lot more hard work remains before it becomes effective, according to observers.

"The most important step now is implementation," Julia Dolly Joiner, AU commissioner for political affairs, said. "We need to move from intentions to actions."

For the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, it is crucial that implementation is carried out "in a timely fashion and in a manner that makes a real difference to the lives of persons affected by internal displacement in the region, including host communities.

"The first step forward should involve a process of national dialogue and civic education aimed at securing the Convention's ratification and implementation by the State parties," according to a statement by the project, which monitors displacement issues worldwide to promote best practice among governments and other actors.

Fifteen countries must ratify the convention before it enters into effect.

Organizers of the 19-23 October meetings insisted that the fact that only 17 signed did not represent a lack of political will and commitment on the part of the African states.

"We debated together and we agreed but when it comes to signing, the person has to have been given the authority by his government to sign," one AU official told IRIN. "Only 17 had such authorization."

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who chaired the summit, praised it as "a very important milestone [that] has gone beyond conflicts to address issues of development.

"We have at least agreed in words, we now have to put our words [into] action," he told a news conference. "The solace for the women in Darfur may not be very immediate, but the fact is that people have come together to discuss the matter."

The IDP convention obliges states to:

  • Prohibit and prevent arbitrary population displacements, respect the principles of humanity and human dignity, as well as aspects of international humanitarian law concerning the protection of IDPs;
  • Ensure assistance to IDPs, incorporate obligations under the convention into domestic law and designate a body to coordinate IDP protection and assistance;
  • Devise early warning systems on potential displacement and establish disaster risk reduction strategies, protect communities and respect individual rights on protection against arbitrary displacement;
  • Respect the mandates of the AU and UN, and the roles of international humanitarian organizations; and
  • Take necessary action to effectively organize humanitarian relief and guarantee security; respect, protect and not attack humanitarian personnel or resources, and ensure armed groups conform with their obligations.

It prohibits armed groups from:

  • Carrying out arbitrary displacement, hampering the provision of protection and assistance to IDPs and restricting the movement of IDPs;
  • Forcibly recruiting, kidnapping or engaging in sexual slavery and trafficking; or
  • Attacking humanitarian personnel or resources.

It obliges the AU:

  • To intervene in respect of grave circumstances such as war crimes and crimes against humanity;
  • To respect the right of members to request such an intervention and support efforts to support IDPs; and
  • Strengthen capacity and coordinate the mobilization of resources for protection and assistance to IDPs...
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