Peace Agreements and the Road to Resolve Internal Displacement. Report of a Global Protection Cluster Round Table - Kyiv 2018
Over the past decade, the number of wars has tripled and in 2016, more countries were experiencing violent conflict than at any time in nearly 30 years.
Wars can only be ended by the parties to the conflict and their supporters. An important part of ending war and restoring peace is the resolution of internal displacement caused by the conflict. And for that peace to last, internally displaced persons should participate in the process.
Within the scope of the Guiding Principles at 20 Plan of Action, the Global Protection Cluster convened a meeting in Kyiv on 3 July 2018 to examine this important subject. Kyiv was chosen as the place for this meeting not only because Ukraine offers a relevant context but also because the Ukraine Protection Cluster, a broad-based coalition of agencies led by UNHCR, produced a Guidance Note on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Ukraine (July 2016), which is useful for other operations and deserving of wider recognition.
The overall aim of the thematic roundtable was to contribute to efforts to resolve internal displacement through peace agreements and peace processes. The round-table reached this overall aim by discussing the various shapes that peace initiatives and pathways to peace can take, in addition to Track One negotiations and peace agreements. This report of the round-table compiles some past and present good practices in addressing internal displacement through peace processes as reported by the participants, who included government ministers and officials, IDPs, peace activists, humanitarian aid workers, international organisations and academics from various countries, including South Sudan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Georgia and Ukraine.
Peace processes are complex undertakings and involve numerous considerations including funding, participation, mandates, formality, structure and human rights and international law. They are also coloured by power, pressure and self-interest (the example of Afro-Colombians was highlighted).
The roundtable explored the dilemmas around the meaningful consultation and participation of IDPs and the models their participation has taken. The roundtable proceeded on the premise that excluding IDPs and other civil society groups from a peace process means that they come to view it as belonging to the armed combatants, not to them. The example of the exclusion of IDPs representatives and others from the Darfur peace talks in Abuja in 2006 was highlighted as a key factor in creating an unsustainable and unworkable peace agreement that lacked local ownership and was quickly repudiated.
The round-table recognised that there are existing frameworks, which help shape the participation of IDPs in peace agreements. The most important peace commitment we have is the United Nations Charter itself - it commits the UN to maintaining international peace and security, to human rights and to promoting development; that framework is important for defining the role of the United Nations.
International law also describes the right of people to freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. International law also describes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to take part in the government of the country. The importance of these rights to internally displaced people is underscored by their inclusion in Principle 22 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are the starting point for engaging IDPs in peace agreements. They provide a definition of forced displacement (which is often necessary, see eg.
Annex I: Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups Uprooted by the Armed Conflict in the Guatemala peace agreement) and, critically, recognise the right of IDPs to a durable solution (Principle 28), although the current average length of displacement is 17-18 years. The sclerosis in conflict management and peaceful resolution of conflicts today undermines the UN Charter but there are examples of peace processes even absent high-level support. For example, the OSCE plan for Eurasia, based on the Helsinki Principles, recognises that prevention can and should happen at any stage; there is no order and sequencing in efforts and recovery and development should be part of the peace process and can help it; there is a need to create space for thinking together, reflection on what further steps we can take and developing a culture of prevention.
The Secretary-General’s emphasis on a triple nexus of peace-humanitarian action-development is a step forward and the efforts for prevention of conflict must be supported, including by guarding against the resurgence of nationalism in e.g. Bosnia.