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Regional meeting on refugees and internally displaced persons in the Southern African Development Community (SADC):
Seminar on Internal Displacement

Gaborone, Botswana, 24-26 August 2005

Background Paper

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In addition to the 9.2 million refugees worldwide, there are more than twice as many people who have been uprooted from their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their own countries and are called internally displaced persons (IDPs). Around the world, some 25 million women, men and children have been internally displaced by conflict, communal violence, and internal strife. Many millions more have been displaced by natural disasters and development projects. Africa bears a disproportionate and truly staggering toll of the global problem of internal displacement. Of those internally displaced by conflict and communal violence, more than half -- an estimated 13.2 million persons -- are in Africa, with some 2.9 million in the countries comprising the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Governments have the primary responsibility for addressing the needs of displaced persons within their borders. Indeed, sovereignty generally is recognized as entailing national responsibility for ensuring the welfare and security of one's citizens and other populations residing within a country's territorial jurisdiction. To this end, governments are expected to undertake measures, such as adopting policies and laws, setting up national institutions, allocating resources, and cooperating as appropriate with international and regional organizations as well as non-governmental organizations, to ensure the provision of assistance, protection and reintegration and development aid to their internally displaced populations.

In dealing with internal displacement, governments often face difficult challenges and questions: What are the most effective ways to address displacement? What is the relevant normative framework? What role should national, regional and international institutions play? What constitutes a durable solution to displacement?

Purpose of the Seminar

The purpose of this seminar is to provide a forum to discuss these questions at the regional level, thereby enabling governments and other relevant actors to develop their thinking on these issues, review current trends in internal displacement in the SADC region, pinpoint best practices, and identify steps that could be taken to enhance policies and practices at the national, regional and international levels.

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