ACCORDING to annual figures from the United Nations in 2014, there were almost 60 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) around the globe right now.
That is about one in every 122 people worldwide. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Italy. The number of refugees and IDPs last exceeded 50 million during World War. However, the figure was astonishing at that time given that the global population was significantly smaller then.
The ever-increasing number of refugees and IDPs pose enormous challenges to the international community and has even proved capable of sparking tensions in areas and regions that were previously untroubled. Simple requirements as to food, shelter, medical care and hygiene, through sheer quantitative needs, create huge logistical problems for the host government and communities in terms of procurement, adequate and equal distribution. It is against this backdrop that this presentation seeks to analyze the legal protection available to displaced persons and refugees with respect to their fundamental human rights and recommend some viable options for a responsive and responsible government.
The United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement persons IDPs as persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.
Causes of Internal Displacement: The causes of displacement in Africa and other parts of the world ranges from natural disasters, lack of development, armed conflict or situations of violence, poverty, the effects of climate change, scarcity of resources, political instability, and weak governance and justice systems. Of these instances, it is clear from the records that armed conflicts account for the root cause of the highest number of displaced persons.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (GPID)
The Guiding Principles on internally displaced persons developed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (,Guiding Principles’j ‘) are the first international standards specifically tailored to the needs of IDPs. The Guiding Principles are consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to a large extent thus codify and make explicit guarantees
protecting internally displaced persons that are inherent in these bodies of law. The Guiding principles provides as follows: Principle 3(1) provides that national authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and assistance to IDPs within their jurisdiction. This principle further stipulates that IDPs are entitled to enjoy full of rights and freedoms like other persons in the country and shall not be discriminated against because of their displacement.
Principle 4(2) acknowledges that certain groups of IDPs – especially unaccompanied minors, expectant mothers, mothers with young children, female heads of household, persons with disabilities and elderly persons – may require specific attention and goes further to address the issue of protection from displacement. On this note, the principles articulate the right not to be arbitrarily displaced and specify minimum guarantees to be observed when displacements are unavoidable. The Guiding Principles also identifies the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all persons, including IDPs, should enjoy.
These include the rights stated in Principle 11(2) (a) – Namely the right to be protected against acts of violence, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as well as the right to be protected against the use of anti-personnel landmines provided in Principle 10(2) (e). Principle 22(d) specifically identifies the right of IDPs to vote and to participate in governmental and public affairs, whether or not they are living in camps.
Principle 18 relates to the right to an adequate standard of living, including ensuring safe access to essential food, potable water, basic shelter and housing as well as appropriate clothing and essential medical services and sanitation. The third section also states in (Principle 19(3) that special attention should be given to the prevention of contagious and infectious diseases, including HIV, among
IDPs. The fourth section deals with the issue of humanitarian assistance and specifies that when governmental authorities are unable or unwilling to provide assistance to the displaced, international organizations have the right to offer their services, and that consent for them to do so shall not be arbitrarily withheld.
The final section of the Guiding Principles emphasizes the importance of providing IDPs with long-term options, namely voluntary return in safety and dignity or resettlement in another part of the country. It also emphasizes the importance of ensuring durable solutions, including the need to provide IDPs with reintegration assistance, whether they return or resettle, and to ensure they have equal access to public services.
In addition, this section explains the duty of national authorities to assist IDPs recover the property and possessions they lost upon displacement or, when this is not possible, to assist them in obtaining compensation or another form of just reparation. The Guiding Principles pay special attention to the protection, assistance and reintegration needs of women and children.
These two groups typically comprise the overwhelming majority of displaced populations. They are currently estimated as comprising 70-80% of the IDP population worldwide.” The Guiding Principles call for the participation of women in the planning and of relief supplies. They require special attention to be paid to the health needs of women, including access to female health care providers and services, and special efforts be made to ensure the full and equal participation of women and girls in educational programmes.
They also prohibit sexual violence, stress the need for family reunification, and highlight the right of women to equal access to personal identity and other documentation and to have such documentation issued in their own names. Principle 23 recognizes the right to education and states that special efforts must be made to ensure that women and girls enjoy equal and full participation in educational programs.
In relation to children, Principle 13 (2) adds that under no circumstances are children to be recruited or to be required or permitted to take part in hostilities. Importantly, the Guiding Principles are being used at the national level in countries affected by internal displacement. Particularly noteworthy is the development of national laws and policies based on the Principles.
Responsibility of Government on Internal Displacement
The task of addressing the problem of internal displacement is primarily the responsibility of national governments. A framework has been developed by the Brookings Institution – University of Bern project on Internal Displacement.
This framework sets out the benchmarks for an effective national response and identifies twelve key steps for national authorities to take in responding to internal displacement. These steps are: Prevention: Governments have a responsibility to try to prevent conditions on their territory that might compel populations to flee as well as raising National Awareness for the Problem. The governments have to create awareness through public pronouncements about the problems to build national consensus and promote solidarity with the displaced.
Data Collection: Government must endeavour to keep accurate data of the numbers, locations and conditions of IDPs in order to design effective policies and programs. Data should be disaggregated by age, gender, and other key indicators so that the specific needs of particular groups are taken into account.
Training: Training programs for government officials, including camp administrators, military and police, in the Guiding Principles on Internal displacement is essential for ensuring that they are aware of the rights and needs of the displaced and their own official duties to protect and assist them.
A National Legal Framework: States have been encouraged by United Nations resolutions to develop laws to uphold the rights of IDPs, taking into account the Guiding Principles. A growing number of governments around the world have been adopting new laws or revising existing legislation.
A National Policy or Plan
of Action: A national policy can complement national legislation. The roles of national and local institutions in responding to internal displacement should be clearly stated. Such national policy should extend to all relevant branches of government-national,local, military and police – and also to non-state actors who also must be held accountable.
National Institution Focal Point: This could be by assigning responsibility for internal displacement to governmental agency or establishing an inter- departmental task force or committee.
National Human Rights Institutions: These institutions are to work with governments to adopt and implement policies and laws that respect the rights of IDPs and also investigate reports of violations of their rights in a given country.
Violation oftheir rights
Participation of IDPs in Decision Making: Engaging displaced persons in consultations and building upon their skills is something often overlooked but critical to an effective response. The participation of women can reduce their vulnerability to sexual extortion and violence.
Supporting Durable Solutions: Governments must ensure that IDPs return voluntarily, in safety and dignity, to their places of habitual residence or, if they choose, to resettle in another part of the country. The government is to assist IDPs to recover property and possessions or obtain compensation or reparation.
Allocation of Adequate Resources: A responsible government must devote to the extent they can, resources to address situations of internal displacement.
Cooperation with International and Regional Organizations: A responsible and responsive government should invite or accept international assistance, especially when the government in question does not have adequate resources to tackle the challenge of displacement.
Conclusion Internal displacement is undisputedly a serious challenge in the Africa generally and the ECOWAS sub-region particularly. Some significant displacement crises have controlled by the ending of hostilities while many of the IDPs are still unable to return to their original place of residence and remain in unsafe conditions while new situations of internal displacement continues to occurs.
A responsible and responsive government will have a lot to do to protect the IDPs, assistance needs and to find durable solutions to their plight and to prevent further displacement from taking place. Responsible national governments are to first and foremost, avoid situations that will lead to displacement. They are to provide adequate security for civilians resident in violence-prone communities during any crises and conflicts particularly for those civilians who are not engaged in the violence.
Moreover, ones there are displaced persons, responsible national governments must ensure Governments are to also seek the collaboration of the international community and other non state actors to help them address the challenge of resettling and providing for displaced person. Based on the complexity of the challenge posed by the crises of internal displacement, working in partnership with regional and international bodies is essential to ensure effective responses.