ABIDJAN (31 July 2012) – “There is a need to address the continued human rights, assistance and protection needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Côte d’Ivoire, many of whom still lack durable solutions, livelihood opportunities and confidence in the security sector. While IDPs are no longer visible in camps, their needs as well as those of their host or return communities continue to be dire. It is critical that they be supported in rebuilding their lives, finding sustainable solutions in their places of return, local integration or resettlement, and participating in the reconciliation process and in other key processes and reforms which will impact their lives and consolidate peace” concluded the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, at the end of his 9 day visit to Côte d’Ivoire (23-31 July 2012).
“I wish to commend the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for the work that has been done, within a relatively short time, towards reestablishing law and order in the country. In cooperation with the international community, it has also largely ensured that returns for IDPs, who were estimated at 1 million at the height of the post- election crisis in March 2011, have been voluntary. The important efforts made by some UN agencies and NGOs to assist with the humanitarian needs of IDPs are noteworthy. Government statements expressing willingness to fight impunity and to ensure accountability through both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms such as the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission are also commendable in order to establish conditions conducive to durable solutions” stated the Special Rapporteur.
He stressed that at this juncture in the country’s history it is important that the Government adopt a principled, transparent and action oriented approach to key reforms and processes which will safeguard the human rights of all persons, including displacement affected communities. This should include assistance to meet the special needs of particularly vulnerable IDPs, such as single female households, the elderly and disabled, and separated children, as well as other IDPs who have not found a durable solution. “In many cases, while IDPs may have been provided with a small measure of assistance for a few months which enabled them to move out of the camps, this assistance alone was insufficient to help them to find a sustainable solution and was not followed by livelihoods projects, necessary to help them resume their normal lives. As a result many IDPs have returned to their areas of origin or locally integrated in host communities which are themselves struggling and have few if any resources to receive and assist them. In other situations, IDPs have resorted to living in precarious informal urban settlement areas, including in Abidjan, where they may be subject to eviction”, explained Beyani. The identification of vulnerable displacement affected communities and individuals, and follow up assistance and durable solutions strategies, is necessary to address the difficult situation in which many IDPs continue to find themselves.
Particularly in the west of the country, IDPs also remain deeply concerned by the security situation. Some communities that were affected by displacement, and some returnees continue to hide in the forest at night due to fears of attacks. It is critical that ongoing security sector reforms, measures to strengthen the justice system and rule of law, and the disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion process be fully set in place as a matter of priority. This is essential in order to ensure the durability of returns, to restore confidence in the security and law enforcement structures in society, and to stem human rights violations. In this regard, I am encouraged by the recent completion of a draft national disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion strategy, which I hope will also now benefit from an inclusive process of consultation with all relevant actors, including displacement affected communities, civil society, and the international community. Such efforts, together with a vetting mechanism which makes the human rights records of a soldier a condition to serve in the new army, and concrete measures to address the presence of non-state armed actors and other irregular forces in parts of the country, and in particular in the West, are essential to prevent the development of a culture of impunity, to re-establish confidence in the rule of law, and to prevent future forced displacements.
Addressing other challenges such as those relating to land reforms and to personal identity documents, and in particular birth registrations, will also be essential in order to deal with underlying causes of displacement and provide effective human rights protection for all. “Land reform processes should be inclusive, transparent, have a clear focal point in the government, and include measures which explicitly take into account the situation of IDPs, promote local ownership of solutions and involve civil society. In view of the importance of civil status documents, I urge the Government to take effective measures to promote and facilitate birth registration procedures, as well as the issuance of identity documents that may have been lost or destroyed during periods of crisis in the country, including by IDPs. Such documents are essential to the exercise of one’s rights, to access services, and to enable the full participation in society of all persons” stated the Special Rapporteur.
Internal displacement is not new to Côte d’Ivoire. Some IDPs, displaced in 2002, were displaced again during the post-election violence in 2011 and durable solutions have yet to be found. Other significant causes of internal displacement also exist, including natural disasters such as flooding, and urban displacement due to development projects or mass evictions from precarious informal settlements, including in Abidjan. In this context, I urge the government of Côte d’Ivoire to adopt eviction guidelines and procedure in line with international standards, to ratify the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons, and to put in place national legal and institutional frameworks which give practical effect to the Convention and ensure the protection of the human rights of all IDPs.
“The timing of my official visit to Côte d’Ivoire, which was arranged some time ago, coincided with the very sad events in the Nahibly camp of the 20 July 2012. I wish to express my deep sympathies to the families of the victims, and the former residents of the camp, which I visited during my field mission in the West. It is a disturbing event which must be condemned and which also reflects the need for dialogue and reconciliation. I will continue to follow the issue, which I hope the ongoing investigations will shed light on and relevant authorities will address appropriately. I have been reassured that the humanitarian community will do their utmost to reach out to the receiving communities and villages of the camp residents in order to monitor and address their assistance and protection needs” stated Beyani.
The Special Rapporteur called on the international community to continue supporting humanitarian, development, peace-building and government reforms in key sectors, as well as mechanisms to promote the meaningful participation of displacement affected communities, including vulnerable persons and women, in such programs.
During his visit the Special Rapporteur met with the Honourable Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou, relevant Government Ministries, local officials, the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission , members of civil society, traditional and religious leaders and UN officials. He also met with communities affected by internal displacement in sites of return, resettlement and integration, in both Abidjan and in the western part of the country. The Special Rapporteur will present his full report on the visit to Cote d’Ivoire to the Human Rights Council in March 2013.
Chaloka Beyani, a Zambian national and professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page – Côte d'Ivoire: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CIIndex.aspx
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