Press conference on internally displaced persons by Special Adviser to Emergency Relief Coordinator
He said that today, the long-time problem of displaced persons who had not crossed an international border, was the "single biggest under-addressed issue" that should be addressed in a holistic manner. The global refugee population was one third of the total of internally displace persons. Africa had about 12 million people displaced by man-made conflicts, while there were about 3 million refugees, for example. There was no United Nations agency for the displaced. The United Nations inter-agency effort to address the problem was not adequate.
He said that, although in Africa peace had been established in several places and 3 million displaced people had returned home, another 3 million had been added in the continuing cycle of some 15 conflicts, where the poorest of the poor were targeted. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 38,000 deaths per month could be attributed directly or indirectly to the conflict, according to the International Rescue Committee, which was the largest such number since the Second World War. In northern Uganda, there were about 1,000 deaths per week, as a result of violent conflict. If those numbers had occurred in Sarajevo or Kosovo, it would have been an international scandal, he said, and he challenged the media to take a more serious look at those issues.
Better international and United Nations support for the displaced was needed, he said. Humanitarian action was not enough. The fundamental issues had to be addressed. The displacement issue was linked to poverty and conflict, and poverty and conflict were mutually reinforcing. The humanitarian part was easy. Some $4 billion a year was needed for humanitarian appeals, but ten times more was needed for recovery of the devastated areas to which the displaced had to return. Now that agreement had been reached regarding the southern Sudan, "the slum-dwellers, displaced from the south, in Khartoum are going back to the slums of Juba". There was also a danger of a "humanitarian substitute", of feeding the hungry children in Africa, which needed to be done, and "satisfying ourselves that the problem had been solved". Pop concerts were helpful, but did not address the fundamental issues.
Recalling that $800 billion was spent on global defence and $8 billion on global aid -- which was less than the $12 billion Wall Street spent annually bonuses -- he said the world was not investing in peace, but in war, and in exploiting the minerals from conflict area, such as diamonds. A holistic approach was needed if the cycle of conflict and displaced populations was to be broken.
The 12,000 humanitarian workers in Darfur, Sudan, could not protect the civilian population, he said. 7,800 troops, although very valuable, were not an appropriate response to the magnitude of the problem. Protection of civilians was a key aspect. The displaced were fed, but not protected. Rape and sexual violence was endemic, violence was carried out with impunity. The lessons of Cambodia, Haiti and Iraq - that, unless there were investments in the rule of law and justice processes, "we can't hold it together militarily alone" -- had not been learned.
However, he said, protection of civilians was advancing. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, reported twice yearly to the Security Council on protection of civilians. New peacekeeping operations now had Chapter VII mandates for protection, but those mandates were not adequately resourced. The humanitarian aid-workers were often on the frontline. It was no coincidence that, over the past ten years, more humanitarian aid workers had lost their lives than United Nations peacekeepers.
The United Nations system was not doing enough, the donors were not doing enough and there were not enough non-governmental organizations, Mr. McNamara said. Moreover, there were no-go areas, such as in Mogadishu, with a quarter of a million Somalis. Unless the problem was addressed comprehensively, the number of no-go areas would increase. The people there would be radicalized, heavily armed and possibly hostile. "Why don't we invest more in the follow-up" of peace agreements, he asked, saying that more was needed from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and from donors, to "really invest in the less concrete, less visible, longer-term, fundamental services to re-establish the lives of these poor, miserable displaced civilian populations". State responsibility to that was key, starting with the host States. Donor countries must invest. The Security Council needed to render support. The human rights and humanitarian agenda, finally, needed to be shifted to centre stage in New York.
Answering a correspondent's question, he said such a comprehensive approach was needed in areas of post-conflict, lingering conflict and returns. He had eight priority countries: Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nepal and Columbia. However, that was just a start, as there were 30 countries with displaced populations.
He did not blame just the Western media for the apathy, but global media "negligence", he said in response to a correspondent's comment. There probably was a certain fatigue factor. "Until the television gets too painful, we don't necessarily react and sometimes we don't' react at all, but turn it off," he said. Apart from the humanitarian imperative, there must also be one of self-interest. "Do we want more no-go areas, as in Somalia"? he asked.
He welcomed the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said in response to another question, but he wondered if it would be more effective than the Security Council had allowed the United Nations Secretariat to be so far. It was, after all, going to be a Council-managed entity. He hoped that the Commission could draw on some of the lessons from past experiences. There was a need for a positive political will to back the new entity. The causes of conflict had been thoroughly analyzed, but not thoroughly addressed. Those causes had to be addressed more fundamentally.
Asked about the difference between displaced persons and refugees, he said refugees [those who had crossed an international border] had the benefit of a convention, of a United Nations agency [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and high-profile refugee camps, usually just across the border. Internally displaced people did not have those benefits. They received far less protection and attention than refugees.
For information media - not an official record