Internal displacement and the Kampala Convention: an opportunity for development actors

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Analytical Paper on the Relevance of Human Rights Approaches for Development Activities Targeting Conflict- and Disaster-Induced Displacement in Africa

Executive Summary

With almost 10 million people internally displaced by armed conflict and other forms of violence in 22 of its countries and an unknown number of those displaced by disasters, Africa is the continent with the largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). At the same time, Africa is the continent that has done most to develop a sound normative framework to protect the rights of IDPs by adopting, in 2006, the Great Lakes Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Protocol the Property Rights of Returning Persons as part of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, and, in 2009, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention), the first full-fledged legally binding convention addressing internal displacement in a comprehensive and detailed manner. In addition, several African countries have developed domestic laws, policies and strategies that address internal displacement.

This analytical paper examines how displacement-relevant international and national human rights instruments and frameworks, including the recent Kampala Convention, can influence and strengthen the design and implementation of development interventions targeting IDPs in Africa.

Such interventions are relevant because internal displacement, when it occurs on a large scale, has a negative impact on a country’s development, particularly on attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but also because displacement situations may provide development opportunities (e.g. to ‘rebuild better’). In particular, internal displacement usually triggers the impoverishment of individuals, families and communities, a process that may be reversed through development interventions addressing, inter alia, the loss of land, livelihoods, shelter, food security, health care, education and social inclusion.

Human rights conventions, the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and African regional conventions (the Kampala Convention and the Great Lakes IDP and Property Protocols) are relevant for addressing many of the poverty-related needs of IDPs, who are protected by norms enshrined in general human rights conventions.

Their needs may also be addressed by domestic laws and policies that incorporate these standards into the legal order of countries with IDPs. International development actors should consider that their national counterparts are bound by at least some of these norms.

Only a relatively small number of African states have thus far adopted specific national laws or policies or are in the process of doing so. Without such domestic instruments, their ratification of the Kampala Convention and/or the Great Lakes IDP Protocol remains largely symbolic. Furthermore, there is a major discrepancy in most countries between having a national instrument and implementing it in a displacement situation. These problems are sometimes created by a lack of will, and are sometimes the consequence of a lack of resources as well as an inadequate understanding and knowledge of how to develop and later use such instruments in a practical way. They are also sometimes due to a combination of these elements.

The political economy of treaty compliance suggests that international development actors can enhance the likelihood that international, regional and domestic human rights provisions protecting the rights of IDPs will be implemented by promoting peer learning, supporting judicial and legislative reforms and building the necessary government and civil society capacity to publicize, monitor and organize around relevant treaty and constitutional provisions.

Using a human-rights-based approach in this context creates added value in five ways. It helps: (i) to determine the responsibilities of state organs by identifying the rights holders and duty bearers for each human rights guarantee; (ii) to facilitate an inclusive and participatory process of planning and implementing development interventions;

(iii) to shape programs and projects in ways that are consistent with relevant human rights guarantees; (iv) to avoid doing harm; and (v) to strengthen accountability for state behavior that is incompatible with human rights.
The Kampala Convention and the Great Lakes IDP and Property Protocols set out state obligations and provide guidance in the areas of, inter alia, service delivery; livelihoods; housing, land and property; and governance.
Experience with displacement-specific programs and projects shows the potential for, and high relevance of, development interventions in these fields and suggests that using a human-rights-based approach can improve their quality, impact and sustainability.