In-depth: Internal Displacement

AFRICA: Introduction

NAIROBI, 14 October 2002 (IRIN) - Musa, an ethnic Pashtun father of four, has lived in a makeshift camp near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad since May 2002 when he fled his home in northern Afghanistan in fear of his and his family's lives. In eastern Ethiopia, after seeing two of her children die and having lost the few possessions she owned and all her livestock to drought, Abyan Abdinur is stranded far from home. Five thousand kilometres to the west, in the sprawling complex of mud and wattle huts that make up the Wilson relief camp in Montserrado County, Liberia, 38-year-old Bendu Kiadii tells of how she and her family trekked for days through the bush in search of safety after fighting flared up between government troops and rebels in April 2002.

Musa, Abyan and Bendu are all internally displaced persons, or IDPs, displaced within the borders of their home country as a result of conflict or natural disaster. Their stories, along with those of others, are told as part of a series of country-specific articles in this IRIN in-depth that highlights the plight of some 25 million IDPs throughout the world.

"IRIN has managed to look at a whole range of issues relating to IDPs, including the human side," Stephanie Bunker, spokesperson for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said. "I particularly like the one-stop shopping this site provides."

The webspecial includes detailed reports on internal displacement in nine countries, including Sudan, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which have more IDPs than any other country, as a result of protracted civil wars.

In each of these three countries IRIN examines the impact of various peace initiatives on the displaced and whether their prospects for return to their home areas have improved. IRIN places particular emphasis on eyewitness accounts and a wide range of humanitarian, governmental and civil society sources in the compilation of these reports.

In this webspecial, IRIN also looks at how the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998), which are essentially a restatement of human rights, humanitarian and analogous refugee laws, are becoming a formidable tool for the empowerment of IDPs, and at efforts being made to ensure that they are widely disseminated, understood and implemented.

The webspecial summarises the findings of the four year survey of internal displacement by the Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council which describes the IDP crisis as "one of the great humanitarian challenges of our time" and notes that in most of the 48 countries covered, IDPs struggle to survive with inadequate shelter, few resources and no protection.

In an interview with Dr Francis Deng, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, IRIN looks at some of the issues surrounding international acceptance of the GPs, including the issue of sovereign responsibility, the role of non-state actors and challenges such as reconciling the GPs with Islamic law (Shari'ah).

The webspecial has links to the web site of the Unit on Internal displacement, established within OCHA to strengthen the international response to internal displacement. According to an OCHA press release, the Unit "will provide a nucleus of expertise to advise and support the Emergency Relief Coordinator in his role as United Nations focal point on internal displacement, and to guide the response of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee."

It also offers links to other important resources such as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998), OCHA's handbook for applying the Guiding Principles, Reliefweb's Library on Internal Displacement and the Brookings Institute CUNY Project on Internal Displacement.
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