Comparison of the Kampala Convention and the IDP Protocol of the Great Lakes Pact

Report
from International Refugee Rights Initiative
Published on 08 Jan 2014

On 6 December 2013, the Kampala Convention celebrated the one year anniversary of its entry into force. Officially known as the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa it commits national governments to provide legal protection for the rights and wellbeing of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of armed conflict, generalised violence, natural disasters, human rights abuses, development projects and other causes.

The fact that 19 African countries have ratified the Convention in a relatively short period of time is a great achievement. However, much more needs to be done not only to ensure that the Convention gains more ratifications, but to ensure the promotion of its implementation.

In order to reinforce this effort, IRRI is launching a briefing paper that provides an analytical comparison between the Convention and a largely similar instrument, the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). This comparison, we believe, will encourage other African countries to ratify the Convention, primarily those in the Great Lakes Region, who have already undertaken a similar set of legal commitments by ratifying the Great Lakes Protocol.

Of the African Union’s 54 member states, only 19, including five member states of the ICGLR, have ratified the Convention. If all the remaining member states of the ICGLR ratified the Convention, the number of ratifications would jump to 26, or 48% of AU member states. On the other hand, if all the countries that signed the Convention (including all of the ICGLR member states except for Kenya) were to ratify, the ratifications would cover more than two thirds of AU members.

However, ratification is only the first step, and as increasing numbers of states ratify the Convention stronger emphasis will need to be shifted to its implementation. Holding governments accountable to protect the displaced in Africa is particularly important in light of the scale of the crisis on the continent. According to the latest figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Africa hosted 10.4 million internally displaced persons in 2012, a third of the world’s IDP population. Since then, massive displacements triggered by armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the eruption of fighting in South Sudan on 15 December 2013 will only have increased this number.

Forced from their homes and with communal protection structures undermined, IDPs are vulnerable to numerous human rights violations. The Kampala Convention was developed to protect these rights and to contribute to the resolution of situations of displacement.

The Convention clearly puts emphasis on the primary responsibility of states to protect the rights of IDPs and provide humanitarian assistance, but it also makes clear that other actors have a role to play. For instance, the Convention refers to the responsibilities and roles of armed groups, non-state and other relevant actors, including civil society organisations, with respect to the prevention of internal displacement, protection of and assistance to IDPs.

There is much more to do, but it is hoped that this briefing paper will contribute to the overall aim of enhancing the rights of IDPs by encouraging further ratifications of the convention.

Read the full paper here.