Côte d'Ivoire – Durable solutions for Internally Displaced Persons are essential to secure peace, reconciliation, and development – UN Expert
GENEVA (17 July 2014) –“Internally Displaced Persons and those who have returned to their areas of origin should not be forgotten, as they still need support to secure their most basic needs, including shelter, food and water, and sustainably rebuild their lives”, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons said at the end of a five day visit to Côte d’Ivoire from 16 to 20 June.
Chaloka Beyani commended the Government for the significant progress it had made in implementing the recommendations he made two years after his first official mission to Côte d’Ivoire. These include the ratification of the Kampala Convention and the International Convention on Statelessness, passing laws on the registration of births and deaths, and re-establishing security and stabilizing the country, for example, by continuing to disarm and demobilise former militia groups, which has enabled a significant number of IDPs and refugees to return “Many of these returnees however lack livelihood opportunities, their homes have been damaged or destroyed, their land has been occupied, and they are often socially marginalized,” stressed Mr. Beyani.
He welcomed efforts to resolve disputes over land and the broader issue of citizenship and problems in obtaining civil documents, which constitute major impediments to durable solutions.
At the time of his visit, the GAovernment was carrying out a national census, which included questions on past displacement from one’s home. Mr. Beyani welcomed assurances that following the census, the Government would assess through a profiling exercise to be undertaken with international partners, the location and needs of the remaining IDPs, returnees and receiving communities in Abidjan and in the West of the country. “It is essential that IDPs realize the importance of being involved in this profiling exercise, so that their needs can be properly identified,” Mr. Beyani said, while stressing the need to ensure that IDPs have a chance to participate as citizens without discrimination in the 2015 national elections.
The Independent Expert called for the rapid implementation of the Kampala Convention, including through the development of a national IDP policy and action plan, implementation of the International Convention on Statelessness, as well as the law on the registration of births and deaths, which provides for free-of-charge registration. This law is crucial as many children, mostly IDPs, were not registered in the chaotic period following the latest national elections. In addition, some 80,000 to 120,000 civil records were destroyed during the crisis, and it is essential to replace them to prevent statelessness. About 700,000 people are estimated to be stateless in the country, a number of them IDPs.
During his visit, Mr. Beyani echoed the stand by the Minister of Solidarity, Women and Children, Ms. Anne-Désirée Ouloto, who spearheads the Government’s response to the needs of IDPs and refugees, when she cautioned against a too rapid withdrawal of humanitarian actors, arguing that the phasing out of humanitarian activities should be conditional on the realization of benchmarks including the successful voluntary return and reintegration of refugees and IDPs, as well as progress on the issue of justice and reconciliation. The Special Rapporteur emphasized that now that the Comité de Coordination Elargi (CCE, Enlarged Coordination Committee) led by the Government and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had taken over the Humanitarian Country Team, and that the Cluster system, which allowed for the strong coordination of humanitarian action by sector, had been handed over to the Government-led sector group, it was essential to continue addressing the protection of IDPs, and linking the response to humanitarian needs to a longer term approach fostering durable solutions. “The CCE needs to work closely with the Minister of Planning and Development, who is leading the revision of the National Development Plan, as well as international development actors, to ensure that the needs of IDPs are taken into account in long-term planning”, the Independent Expert said.
The Special Rapporteur noted the need for preparedness for recurrent IDP waves in the country, for example in May 2014, some 3,500 persons from Fêté found refuge in IDP settlements and amongst host families in Grabo.
The Special Rapporteur also expressed his concern over the Government’s operation to relocate the inhabitants of 231 classified forests and 9 national parks. “Now that the Government has announced its decision to relocate the population of Mount Peko, it is essential to draw the lessons from last year’s eviction from Niégré. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the Kampala Convention should guide the process, to ensure that this relocation is well planned, with the participation of the affected communities, and that alternative settlement options are found with their consent”, Mr. Beyani said.
Mr. Beyani welcomed efforts to protect judges and witnesses involved in the investigation and prosecution of those who attacked and burned to the ground a few days before his 2012 visit the IDP camp of Nahibly, near the town of Duékoué in the west of the country. “The investigation must be completed in a speedy and transparent manner. Witnesses to these tragic events should be protected, and perpetrators brought to justice”, Mr. Beyani emphasized.
He underscored the importance of Côte d’Ivoire as a pilot country for the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Committee Decision on durable solutions for IDPs and returning refugees in the aftermath of conflict. As per the Decision, UNDP and UNHCR are spearheading the strategy, which is focusing on fostering durable solutions in Abidjan and the west of the country. The strategy plans for the reconstruction of at least 8000 houses of IDPs which were destroyed during the crisis, as well as livelihood and reconciliation activities. The implementation of the strategy will require continued leadership from the United Nations in conjunction with the Government, the engagement of development actors and donors, and should be informed by the profiling exercise mentioned above.
During his visit, Mr. Beyani addressed the CCE chaired by the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire and the Humanitarian Coordinator. He met with the Minister of Solidarity, Family, Women and Children, officials in UNOCI, UNHCR, OCHA and UNDP, as well as the UN Country Team, civil society organizations and IDPs.