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Summary and Recommendations from the Seminar on Internal Displacement in the SADC Region

Sponsored by the UNHCR, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and the Brookings Institute-University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement

Gabarone, Botswana

24-26 August 2005

SARPN acknowledges the Brookings Intitute-University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement as the source of this document.
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Overview of the discussion

Through the presentations and discussions that took place during the seminar, it was recognized that internal displacement is an issue of serious concern for the SADC region: many countries have directly experienced the problem in the past while others face it currently. Since more than half of the world's 25 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are in Africa, the severity of the problem for the region cannot be denied. Discussion in particular focused on the internal displacement situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola as well as on the earlier experience of displacement in Mozambique. Other situations of displacement, in particular in Zimbabwe, also were raised.

The causes of internal displacement in the SADC region are diverse and inter-related. Displacement may be induced by conflict, human rights violations or natural disasters such as drought and other factors such as food insecurity. Displacement may also be associated with urban renewal schemes and development projects such as the construction of dams, roads and other infrastructure. The question of balancing the potential positive outcomes of development projects and the negative consequences of displacement is a difficult one which merits further consideration, drawing upon the experiences of other regions. While planned displacement of this kind may be justified as in the public interest, it is essential to bear in mind the standards set out in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and other guidelines put forward by institutions such as the World Bank.

There are many similarities between the circumstances facing refugees and IDPs, but also key differences. Legally, IDPs are in a different context: still within their country, they are entitled to the full range of rights as citizens, and their protection and assistance is the responsibility primarily of their government. On the ground, differences between refugees and IDPs are often manifested in discrepancies in access to humanitarian assistance and in the support received for durable solutions.

It was also recognized that victims of forced migration do not necessarily remain in neat categories-there is fluidity between different types of migration such as internal displacement, refugee movements and economic migration.

There was strong consensus amongst participants regarding the importance of acknowledging and responding to the vulnerabilities facing the internally displaced. Individuals who are already vulnerable, for example due to gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, are among those most likely to become displaced. Displacement itself exacerbates vulnerability to further displacement. It is essential to tackle the root causes of internal displacement, particularly conflict and under-development. The importance of creating a culture of peace, combating impunity and the need for reconciliation was emphasized. Preventing and mitigating the impact of natural disasters was considered vital.

Beyond prevention, it is fundamental to address the consequences of internal displacement, which are devastating for individuals, families and communities. The challenges of protecting and assisting the displaced were discussed, in addition to facilitating access to durable solutions. The question of when displacement ends stands out as a key issue that requires further consideration.

In responding to internal displacement, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were recognized as an important tool and reference point to assist governments and other actors in promoting and protecting the rights of the internally displaced. The wide use and dissemination of the Principles in the SADC region were encouraged. Discussion took place on the issue of whether there should be a binding convention on internal displacement; in this connection the AU initiative to develop a legal framework on internal displacement was noted with interest.



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