Posted by: africanpressorganization | 23 October 2009

UN human right chief hails new African convention for internally displaced people




UN human right chief hails new African convention for internally displaced people



GENEVA, Switzerland, October 23, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warmly welcomed a ground-breaking new treaty for internally displaced people in Africa, which was endorsed Friday at the African Union Heads of States Special Summit in Uganda.

“The endorsement of the Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa marks a significant step forward in filling the unfortunate vacuum that has traditionally been the lot of internally displaced people,” the High Commissioner said. “It is very good to see Africa taking a leadership role in creating the first legally-binding instrument to protect and assist internally displaced persons across the continent.”  

Millions of Africans – in countries such as Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan – are displaced due to conflict and natural disasters. The new Convention is particularly significant given that close to half of the world’s 26 million internally displaced people are in Africa.

“People who flee persecution or conflict and cross into another country are categorized as refugees and, as such, benefit from a long-standing and well-oiled international legal protection system, including the 1951 Refugee Convention,” said Pillay. “But, until now, internally displaced people have been more or less excluded from the system of international legal protection, even though they are often displaced in exactly the same way, and for exactly the same reasons, as refugees. At least in Africa, that should no longer be the case.”

The new African legal framework, which incorporates much of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (an important, but non-binding, set of guidelines), is intended to promote regional and national measures to prevent, mitigate, prohibit and eliminate the root causes of internal displacement as well as provide for durable solutions. It should also contribute to the protection and better assistance of internally displaced people (commonly known as IDPs) in Africa.

“I welcome the close cooperation between my office and the African Union on human rights issues, and look forward to supporting individual states in implementing the new IDP Convention,” Pillay said.  “I truly hope that the adoption of this historic Convention on the continent will inspire other regions and the international community in general, so that the lives of IDPs will be significantly improved, not just in Africa but elsewhere in the world as well.”


Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)


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