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The Internally Displaced People International Relations Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Relations
Wordcount: 5424 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The outbreak and the maintenance of armed conflicts have had a negative impact on peace, stability and security in many regions of the planet during world history, often resulting in the movement of people within and outside their home countries. During the past few decades, the global juncture has caused the forced population displacement to grow in size and complexity. Hitherto, the absence of a solution for millions of internally displaced persons in protracted situations continues to pose a major challenge to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to other humanitarian agencies.

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Although refugees have been a constant and accepted part of human displacement for centuries, the development of the nation-state and fixed borders in the 19th century caused countries to shun the migration across State borders. Thus, this increasingly difficulty to cross international borders steered towards internal displacement – creating IDPs rather than international displacement – creating resulting in refugees. At that time, groups of people facing religious or political persecution would often try changing to a more tolerant religion or political sight in order to avoid discrimination, since there was no international agency channeling protection to displaced people.

The largest people displacements of world history occurred Dduring the twentieth century, as a consequence of major political clashes and transitions were the key elements causing factors of the largest people displacements of world history. The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused led approximately 1.5 million Russians who opposed to communism to flee off their homes. In the Caucasus, more than one million Armenians fled their homelands between 1915 and 1923 to escape persecution and massacre during the Armenian Genocide.

The first concerted international effort to assist displaced people was made during World War I, when Herbert Hoover created a non-governmental organization called Commission for Relief in Belgium. By the end of the war, it had distributed five million tons of food and the equivalent to one billion dollars in aid to refugees and internally displaced people (LAUREN, 2003).

By the time, refugees and IDPs were immediately perceived not just as people displaced, but as people lacking protection and, explicitly, without the protection support of their own State. It was this gap that theThe League of Nations sought to fill this gap when it created, in 1921, the High Commission for Refugees to assist refugees and IDPs who were deprived of their habitual rights due to the social and political instabilities of the time. The establishment of this organization was the “first recognition that the international community has responsibility for protecting those forced to flee their homelands because of repression or war” (MINGST & KARNS, 2007, p. 168). The main activities of the agency included assisting displaced people from the Russian Revolution, from World War I and protecting other groups, such as Armenians, Assyrians, Assyro-Chaldeans, and Turks.

Fridtjof Nansen served the League of Nations as a delegate from Norway to the High Commission for Refugees. One of Nansen’s most important innovations was a document that specified which individuals were refugees; this became known as the Nansen Passport, which was accepted by more than 50 countries and was a precursor to many important documents regarding refugees and IDPs. For his work, Nansen received the Nobel Peace Prize. After Nansen’s death in 1930, the League replaced the High Commission with the Nansen International Office for Refugees (NOBEL FOUNDATION, ANO).

During the Great Depression and the run-up to World War II, States became less willing to help refugees and IDPs. This was partly the result of economic crisis and partly the result of a desire in to not to interfere in the affairs of other States.

For instance, although it was clear as early as 1933 that Jews and other minorities were being persecuted by the Gestapo, the official secret police of Nazi Germany, the German government protested against the accusations of the international community and the League of Nations took no action (GIBNEY & HANSEN, 2005). As the Dutch foreign minister explained:

We have no wish to examine the reasons why these people have left their country; but we are faced with the fact that thousands of German subjects have crossed the frontiers of neighboring countries and refused to return to their homes for reasons which we are not called upon to judge (HADDAD, 2008, p. 109).

In 1939, the Nansen Office was replaced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, under the protection of the League. Due to the outbreak of World War II – which divided and incapacitated the League of Nations -, the new office never complied with its objectives. Instead, each side dealt separately with refugees and internally displaced people, both of whom were more numerous than ever before, due to the worldwide scope character of the conflict and to the war technological developments.

During the war, 65 to 75 million people died, about half of whom were civilians, and million others were displaced due to persecution or to the eminent danger suffered by the population (LEITENBERG, 2006). The first population movements were those of the Jews and others fleeing off their homelands in Germany. Then, as Germany, Italy and Japan began to expand, Poles, Danes, Ethiopians, French, Chinese and many others were displaced from their habitual homes[1]. At the end of the war, the population movement reversed. According to the researcher Joseph V. O’Brien, in the immediate post-war period, millions of ethnic Germans that lived abroad were expelled from their homes, many of whom died in displaced-persons camps (O’BRIEN, 2007).

As soon as the war ended, in 1945, the United Nations organization was founded and its General Assembly created the International Refugees Organization (IRO). In 1950, the General Assembly replaced the IRO with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). At that time – five years after World War II ended -, there were still more than one million refugees and IDPs from the war (LAUREN, 2003). The UNHCR remains until today the UN agency charged for overseeing programs related to displaced persons and, over the past 60 years, it has helped more than 100 million people in finding durable consistent solutions to their situations (UNHCR, 2009).

Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, around two million Chinese fled off their homes to find shelter in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The world’s largest population movement in history occurred in 1947 when 18 million Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India were displaced from their homelands in the newly created countries of Pakistan and India. Also, aApproximately 3.7 million Germans fled from East Germany to West Germany between 1945 and 1961, when the Berlin Wall was constructed.

After World War II, civil wars and conflicts caused by the bipolarity of the Cold War regime have accountedwere responsible for the vast majority of internal displacements of people. It is remarkable that during the first fifty years of the 20th century, most of the people displacements were hosted in Europe, Russia and China, whereas during the last fifty years of that century, the displacements steered towards Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Throughout the Cold War period, the most majority of internal displacements of people happened in Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Indochina (Vietnam and Laos), Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Iraq (UNHCR, 1994).

In 1972, the civil war in Sudan forced 180,000 refugees to flee off their homelands and internally displaced another 500,000 persons within the country. In 1974, Guinea-Bissau established a local government was established in Guinea-Bissau and itand requested assistance to the UNHCR to stabilize the situation in the country; one of the main goals of this the supportrequest request was the to obtain aid to internally displaced persons. There are no official figures, but UN agencies estimate that there were at least 100,000 IDPs in the country, 30,000 of whom were beneficiaries of the UNHCR activities.

The war in Southeast Asia, especially in Indochina (Vietnam and Laos), displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. In Laos alone, 700,000 were estimated to be uprooted – either internally or externally displaced. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ethiopia was facing severe internal conflicts. In 1979, the Ethiopian government requested assistance to the UNHCR due to the IDPs, estimating that some 500,000 persons were homeless in the Ogaden region; by March of 1980, the figure had risen to 750,000. Following the Ethiopian government’s initial appeal, the High Commissioner delivered aid to 150,000 of the neediest internally displaced persons.

In the late 1970s, civil war uprooted around 660,000 persons in Zimbabwe. In 1980, the High Commissioner was asked by the United Nations Secretary- General Kurt Waldheim and the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe to coordinate aid programs for 410,000 internally displaced persons. The rehabilitation program included the provision of agricultural equipment and training, shelter, food, water and education. Similar episodes happened in Uganda and Chad.

Following the peace treaty between India and Sri Lanka, the former requested assistance to the reception of the returning refugees who were expected to be repatriated from India and to aid the hundreds of thousands of IDPs who were spread all over the country. This episode is one of the most successful UNHCR operations regarding refugees and IDPs, due to the joint effort of the local government and UN agencies. By 1990, some 800,000 IDPs and 50,000 returnees were receiving assistance. The operation provided the rebuilding of schools and housing, the construction of small-scale irrigation systems, a fishery and crop training, and the granting of temporary shelter.

Additionally to the above mentioned cases, the Cold War period also entailed a series of other small conflicts and localized quarrels that also caused the upward of internally displaced people in different regions of the world, where which asked support to the UNHCR was asked support. The High Commissioner also delivered assistance to IDPs in Cyprus (1974), Uganda (1979), Chad (1981), Lebanon (1982), Nicaragua (1987 and 1989), El Salvador (1989), Guatemala (1989) and Honduras (1989), among others (UNHCR, 1994).

The end of the Cold War led to the dissolution of countries, outbreak of local conflicts and changes in politics that caused unbridling persecution and a huge increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world, most of which lasts until today. Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wwall, in the aftermath of Iraq‘s defeat by coalition forces in the Iran-Iraq War, at least one million persons were uprooted – 500,000 of whom still remain internally displaced. A similar episode happened in Yugoslavia, when the breakup of the country in various new States led to internal tensions and to the rise of IDPs. Many countries today still have a large number of IDPs, such as Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, among others. Such cases will be later further explored in this article.

1 2. Statement Oof Tthe Issue

2 1.1 Definition of Internally Displaced People

There is no legal definition for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as, for instance, there is for refugees. We may define a refugee as a person who has left his or her home country due to fear of persecution and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. Internally Displaced Persons have left their homes for similar reasons, but have not crossed an international border.

The most accurate definition of IDPs was given by a United Nations report entitled The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It is important to understand that this definition is a descriptive definition concept rather than a legal definitionone. The report defines 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, the situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border (OCHA, 2004).

Involuntary departure and, namely, the fact that the individual remains within his or her country are the two core defining elements of an internally displaced person. The first element distinguishes IDPs from persons who left their homes but could have otherwise safely remained where they previously lived. The second key element differentiates IDPs from refugees. Both of the categories of displaced persons often face similar deprivations; however IDPs remain within their country of habitual residence, whereas refugees don’tdo not.

2 1.2 The Protection OF of IDPS

Protection isinvolves about ensuring that all persons enjoy theiry rights on equal basis, in with safety and dignity. All persons have the equal right to protection, and so do so internally displaced persons. People in this situation face various barriers to their enjoyment of rights, which may threaten their immediate safety or deny them equal access to entitlements. After fleeing the effects of armed conflicts or human rights violations, IDPs often are often unsuccessful to in finding find security and safety in the place of displacement and still face attacks and violence, usually specifically targeted to their settlements.

It is import to acknowledge that displacement can affect individuals in different ways. Specific groups of persons, such as women, children, older personselderlies and minorities usually suffer marginalization in the communities and are less represented in formal decision making structures. This lack of representation results in the disregard ing of the specific risks that they face. In several countries, displaced children were particularly at risk of abduction and forced recruitment into armed groups while displaced women were exposed to risks of sexual and gender-based violence and abuses. Ignoring these discrimination and the particular risks faced by some members of the community may increase these risks and reinforce the discrimination and exclusion.

The principles of equity that should underlie all policies and programmes are established for refugees by UNHCR . To quote from Article 1 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, no distinction, exclusion or restriction is to be made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Regarding child’s protection, a ccording to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of , 1989, three principles must be respected: non-discrimination, participation, and the child’s “best interests”. Article 3 of the above cited Convention provides that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” This principle ought to be applied to decisions affecting directly and indirectly individual and groups of children.

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In several countries, displaced children were particularly at risk of abduction and forced recruitment into armed groups while displaced women were exposed to risks of sexual and gender-based violence and abuses. Ignoring these discrimination and the particular risks faced by some members of the community may increase these risks and reinforce the discrimination and exclusion .

As a matter of international law, it should be the duty of the government concerned to provide assistance and protection to internally displaced persons within their territorial State, in virtue of its sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention. Yet, as many of the displacements are a result of civil conflicts or quarrels where the authority of central states is in dispute, it is sometimes the very governments responsible for protecting and assisting their its internally displaced populations that are is unable or even unwilling to do so. Sometimes governments may even be directly involved in forcibly uprooting their own civilians (GPCWG, 2007).

At this point, the prevailing premises of sovereignty and non-intervention stand potentially against other principles of the international community, such as the commitment to human rights and to international cooperation in the unraveling of humanitarian problems. This approach gears works towards the possibility of an international organization claiming to involve itself in the situation and help the civilians at risk (GOODWIN-GILL, 2006).

Even though sometimes the national governments are unable or unwilling to protect and assist their internally displaced populations, the role of international actors is to reinforce, and not replace, national responsibility. International actors should support the development of national and local capacities to fulfill these responsibilities. However, in several countries, national authorities chose not to cooperate with international assistance to fulfill their responsibility towards IDPs, openly rejecting any help, imposing serious bureaucratic obstacles, and harassing humanitarian workers.

As IDPs do not cross international borders, they do notn’t have a well-established system of international protection. Unlike the case of refugees, there is no international organization which has the overall responsibility of protecting and assisting the internally displaced persons, despite the fact that. However they are increasingly at the forefront of the humanitarian agenda. Usually, aIn view of this situation, a number of organizations usually step into the breach and help in their specific areas. In 2005, the Principals of the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee assigned responsibility for the protection of IDPs to a cluster of UN agencies and international organizations to be chaired by UNHCR. The cluster approach envisaged aimed at to fulfilling the significant capacity gaps that existed in the provision of the basic rights of the displaced persons in shelters and camps, such as the right to safety, education and food.

2 1.3 Population

Since the Cold War, the number of people uprooted by conflict, ethnic rivalry and human rights violations has soared. Sometimes natural boarders, such as mountains or rivers impede flight to other countries. In addition, some countries refuse to admit refugees becausebased on the costs and destabilization they cause, it can be too costly or destabilizing, which thus elevating es even more the population of internal displaced.

The humanitarian reform process initiated in 2005 with entails a view to reinforce leadership and coordination and has provided over the last few years a considerable institutional improvement in the response to the needs of IDPs. Meanwhile, an increasing number of states have developed or are developing legal instruments based on the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Nonetheless, new internal displacement continues to occur and a relevant number of IDPs are in a situation where in which the possibility to return to their places of origin seems quite distantce.

It is very difficult to raise accurate figures for Internally Displaced Persons due to the lack of a unified definition of the term and to the fact that these populations are constantly fluctuating: some IDPs may be returning to their homes while others may be fleeing. Moreover, if on the one hand IDP cases in large camps, such as those in Darfur or Sudan, are relatively well-reported, on the other hand, it is very difficult hard to assess those IDPs who find shelter in large cities or in other people’s houses.

Since 2001, the global number of IDPs has remained almost unchangeduntouched, hovering around the 25 million mark. Neither the increase of international attention nor sState pledges to protect civilians from forced displacement has resulted in a substantial reduction of its population. The UNHCR estimates that there are around 26 million IDPs worldwide. Of this number, more than 16 million receive protection and assistance from the organization[2]. UNHCR’s involvement with IDP’s dates back to the 1970’s and has grown to the extent that IDP’s of concern to the organization outnumber refugees and asylum-seekers (UNHCR, 2009).

In 2008, about 4.6 million people were forced to leave their homes as a result of new outbreaks of conflict and violence in 24 of the 52 countries monitored. Of these, ten countries had large-scale new displacements of 200,000 people or more. Some 2.6 million people in 18 countries were reported to have returned. Large-scale returns of 200,000 people or more were reported in five countries: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Kenya and the Philippines. All of these countries, but except Uganda are also among the countries which experienced new large-scale displacements.

The number of IDPs in Africa was the lowest recorded in this decade, at 11.6 million. With the exception of Europe and Central Asia, the number of IDPs increased in all other regions. South and South-East Asia was the region with the largest relative increase in the IDP population: it grew 13 per cent in 2008 to reachreaching 3.5 million (IDMC, 2008).

According to a recent UNHCR report, Sudan has the largest number of IDPs in the world, with an estimated population outnumbering 4 million internally displaced persons. Sudan is being closely followed by Colombia, Pakistan and Iraq. Together, they host about half of the world’s IDPs and have more than 350 million dollars designated to aid them, sponsored by the UN. Besides them, other countries also have enormous IDP populations, such as Somalia, Uganda, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Côte d’Ivoire (UNHCR, 2009).

2.4. Displacement by Region

With 45 per cent of all IDPs, Africa still is the continent which hosts its larger population. However, compared to the region’s total population, the ratio of IDPs has fallen. In Somalia, the figure continues to increase an. dT the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains the world’s fourth largest displacement situation, with people returning home in some parts of the country and newly displaced by the armed conflict in the East. Sudan saw as well both large number of newly displaced people and returnees.

In the Americas, the situation of in Colombia is still worrisome, considering that the country has the second-largest displaced population in the world, mainly due to CONFLITO. Despite increased efforts in the national and international response to the displacement crisis, IDPs in Colombia continue to face protection problems.

In the Middle East, where most of IDPs are in this situation for decades, the population of internal displaced continuesis continually increasing to increase. Most of it has been displaced by armed conflicts in Yemen and Iraq.

In South and South-East Asia, the displacements are particularly significant in the Philippines – due to fighting between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Ffront (MILF) – and in Pakistan – due to fighting between the government and armed groups. The majority of the IDPs in this region returned home after a relatively short period of displacement.

The situation in Europe and Central Asia has changed little in the last few years and the internal displaced population remains around 2.5 million. A small number of it managed to achieve durable solutions to end their situation of prolonged displacement.

2.5. Jurisdiction

As citizens of their country, IDPs have the right to full and equal protection under the State’s national law, which should be compatible with the State’s obligations under international law. The challenge that international agencies, NGOs and States have faced is to identify the rights and guarantees inunder the international law that respond to the particular needs and protection risks that arise during displacement.

Since the release of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the international community and in particular the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of IDPs has have worked to provide national authorities with the necessary guidance to fulfill their responsibility towards IDPs. Although it isn’t a binding document, it is based on the standards of international law, which are binding. It gleans the main rules of international law and refugee law, which are relevant for the protection in internal displacement, and establishes the responsibilities of States and other authorities towards them. The States recognize this document as “an important international framework for the protection of internally displaced persons”, as well as a “tool” and “standard” to guide governments and others international actors in situations of internal displacement.[3]

A growing number of governments are anchoring policies on the Principles, which therefore makinge themn binding at the domestic level. In 2001 the government of Angola based its law concerning the resettlement of the internally displaced on the provisions in the Guiding Principles; in 2004 the government of Peru adopted a law based on the Principles that provides material benefits to IDPs. Similarly, in Colombia the government announced more aid to IDPs in response to a Constitutional Court decision based on the Guiding Principles, while the government of Georgia brought its laws on voting rights into line with them. In Burundi, Liberia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Uganda governments have based their national policies on the Principles, with reported gains reported for IDPs. (COHEN, 2006)

Developments in the regional level are essential to reinforce national action. Human rights monitoring mechanisms in certain regions, such as Africa, Americas and Europe are increasingly engaged in addressing human rights issues in situations of internal displacement and in protecting IDPs. By the end of 2008, 11 countries of the Great Lakes Region in Africa had adopted the first binding multilateral instrument in the world aimed at implementing the Guiding Principles. The Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, and more specifically its two Protocols on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and on the Property Rights of Returning Persons, provide states parties with a comprehensive policy framework for their national response to internal displacement. Despite such positive developments, many of these governments were not fulfilling their national responsibility towards IDPs.

There are still some key instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which cover a range of risks that IDPs often face and reinforce protection for specific groups particularly affected by displacement. The International Humanitarian Law is as well a significant protection mechanism, considering that internal displacement often occurs in situation of armed conflict. In most of the cases, the displacement could be avoided if the the obligations imposed by International Law were respected.

Even though considerable achievements have been made in the last ten years in the implementation of national laws and policies, it is noticeable the need to a more effective international system to assist and protect IDPs. While refugees are entitled to seek international protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1957 Protocol, the international community is not under the same legal obligation to protect IDPs. Internal displaced populations may flight for the same reasons as refugees, but they receive markedly less international protection. Ultimately, only political solutions to the underlining causes of the conflict causing displacement will ease the IDP crisis and reduce its population.

Topic Area B: Climate Change and Human Displacement

1. Historical Background

The connection between climate change and human migration is not a recent phenomenon. It is broadly known that, throughout history, climatic changes have noticeably altered changed flora, fauna, and, hence, humanity’s way of life. Although aware that environment is not the only factor controlling the humanity’s destiny, academics have always taken on into account the role played by environmental factors in explaining population’s history and the emergence of cities. For instance, the passage across the Bering Straits from America 13.000 years ago was only possible due to the ice Ice Age. Additionally, llow sea levels and the desertification of Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula have played a key role in the emergence of the ancient Egyptian civilization. FONTE

In this sense, it is important to observe that climatic events have had various effects over communities in different parts of the world and throughout distinct periods of history. Their influence in a given time and place have been largely connected with the way in which those communities and their sources of subsistence were organized. For example, cereal cultivation by settled societies who based their livelihood in non-irrigated agriculture was highly dependent on the amount and incidence of precipitation during the growing season. When the level of precipitation decreased significantly – or on the occurrence of a drought period -, usual outcomes were harvest failures and famines,; forcing communities to leave their homes. For example, in the case of the Zhou tribes, in China, around 3550 and 2200 B.C., climatic conditions were one of the main factors that contributed to the constan


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