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By: Roberta Cohen
The concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P) developed in large measure from efforts to design an international system to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The explosion of civil wars emanating from and following the Cold War brought into view millions of persons inside their own countries who were uprooted from their homes and in need of international protection and assistance. Many had little or no access to food, medicine or shelter and were vulnerable to assault, sexual violence, and all manner of human rights abuse.
Meeting at the Special Summit of the African Union in Kampala, Uganda on 22-23 October 2009, African heads of state and government have undertaken significant commitments to solve one of the continent's (and the world's) most pressing humanitarian crises-the displacement of an estimated 11.6 million men, women, and children within the borders of their own countries.
2008 marked the 10th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement which was an occasion both to commemorate efforts over the past decade to uphold the human rights of IDPs and to remind ourselves that much remains to be done. There are still an estimated 26 million people who have been forced from their communities by conflict and many more who have been displaced by natural disasters and large-scale development projects.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo's July 2008 request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for President al Bashir of Sudan on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide sparked a firestorm of praise, criticism, anxiety, and relief in equal measure among peacekeepers, aid workers, diplomats, and human rights activists. Opponents of the Prosecutor's move argued that it amounted to a call for regime-change and would imperil any future peace negotiations and the still-incomplete deployment of peacekeepers.
Roberta Cohen, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy
A regional seminar on internal displacement was convened from 24-26 August 2005 in Gaborone, Botswana, hosted by the Government of Botswana and co-sponsored by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the Brookings Institution-University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement. It was the first seminar of its kind focused on internal displacement in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.