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18 December 2006

The following statement was issued today by the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin:

"In Georgia, internally displaced persons were marginalized as a matter of State policy for more than a decade, and their human rights were not sufficiently protected. I welcome the intention of the Georgian Government to break with the past by implementing a comprehensive National Strategy for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The challenge is to turn words on paper into reality, in order to end the continuing suffering of the displaced in Georgia." This is the main message of the Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Walter Kälin, who concluded on Saturday an official visit to Tbilisi undertaken at the invitation of the Government.

During his official mission to Georgia in December 2005, the Representative had been shocked by the miserable living conditions of many displaced citizens. He had then recommended that the Government develop a strategy based on full respect for their human rights: ‘Allowing and assisting internally displaced persons to integrate into society and live normal lives in dignity, and respecting their right to return to their homes and communities, are not mutually exclusive. Rather, the two principles reinforce each other.’

On Friday, the Representative participated in the public presentation of the draft National Strategy for Internally Displaced Persons. He welcomed that the two principles – the right to return and to local integration – are at the core of the Strategy. In particular, he was encouraged by the Government’s commitment to ending the marginalization of the internally displaced and to improving their living conditions through comprehensive programmes in key areas such as housing, education, health, and employment. The Representative commended the draft Strategy’s reaffirmation of human rights and the standards set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

"One of the main strengths of the Strategy is that it has been developed through a broad-based consultative process which brought together relevant State agencies, IDP associations and civil society, as well as the international community. The participation of displaced persons from the outset is likely to render policy responses more effective", the Representative said.

The Representative called on the Government and on Parliament to finalize the adoption of the Strategy without delay. He welcomes the intention of the State Commission, an interministerial body specifically created by the Prime Minister for this purpose, to develop a concrete action plan, and emphasized the need to then proceed immediately to its implementation. ‘In the meantime, State assistance for displaced people in need should be maintained at least at the current level. The creation of new gaps in public services and support must be avoided during the reform process.’

Mr. Kälin urged the political leadership of Georgia to give priority to this ambitious but crucial national project, and to keep the current momentum to ensure that durable solutions will be found for Georgia’s displaced as soon as possible. He also highlighted the importance of the continued participation of civil society and the displaced citizens themselves. He was encouraged by the commitment of international organizations, in particular the UN country team, to continue supporting national efforts for internally displaced persons, and called on donors to come together and complement the resources allocated by the Government.

During his stay in Tbilisi, the Representative met with the Minister for Refugees and Accommodation, the State Minister for Conflict Resolution, the State Minister for Reform Coordination, the Chairperson of Parliament, the Chair of the Temporary Commission on the Restoration of Territorial Integrity at the Parliament, the Deputy Chair of the Committee on Human Rights and Civic Integration, as well as with the United Nations country team, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia, the Council of Europe and other international organizations, donors and non-governmental organizations working on behalf of internally displaced persons in Georgia."
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