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CAR: High-level mission calls for greater access and protection of IDPs and vulnerable communities

BANGUI / GENEVA (16 February 2015) – A high-level mission wrapped up a five-day visit to the Central African Republic drawing attention to the human suffering and calling for greater access to and better protection of vulnerable communities.

The United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani and ECHO Director of Operations, Jean-Louis de Brouwer, saw for themselves the appalling living conditions of people directly affected by the current crisis during their visits to Bambari, Yaloke, Mpoko and PK5 in Bangui.

Much has changed since conflict erupted more than a year ago. The worst has been avoided. Yet in spite of a significant scaling up of humanitarian action, the need for assistance remains extremely high.

More than 2.7 million Central Africans require one form or another of external help to survive. Some 500,000 are still displaced. Many of them, in particular some minority populations that remain trapped by the continued violence, are in an ever more precarious and desperate situation.

The crisis has grown in complexity and has become a multi layered conflict. Armed groups are fragmenting into numerous bands resulting in widespread banditry. The situation of vulnerable civilians becomes more intractable and subject to rumours and political manipulation that exacerbate violence.

 “Improved and reliable communication with all communities is key in this situation of deep fear and mistrust,” asserted the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Kang.

Ms. Kang expressed deep concern for the fate of the many pockets of minorities and displaced civilians whose return to a normal and dignified life is impeded by this growing complexity. For the IDPs that remain in the Mpoko site at Bangui's airport, humanitarians are committed to working with authorities to find alternative solutions based on their informed and voluntary decisions.

For Muslim minorities confined in clearly delimited neighbourhoods in Bangui and other towns such as Berberati, engagement in the otherwise laudable efforts of popular consultations in the Bangui Forum seems remote and reinsertion in the social and economic fabric of the country is only still a very distant proposition.

For nomadic Fulani cattle herders trapped by the conflict in such places as Yaloke, their very way of life is threatened as they languish in appalling conditions in enclaves.

“All these groups might face different long term challenges to regaining a sense of normality but they do share one common immediate constrain: the paralyzing fear of insecurity, which stops them from returning to their neighbourhoods, reinvest in their economic activities or embark on their traditional migratory journeys,” Ms. Kang noted. Attacks and exactions against civilians are rife, including sexual gender based violence and forced enrolment of children in armed groups.

Such vulnerable groups require immediate protection. It is the primary responsibility of the Transitional authorities to protect its population. Humanitarian partners can still do more in terms of identifying the most vulnerable and supporting local and religious authorities and civil society in providing adequate services and protection, in particular to women and children. National police and Gendarmerie, with the support of international forces must provide more effective security in more parts of the country.

“Violence and fighting must stop,” Ms. Kang said, calling on all armed groups to immediately stop attacking and preying on civilian. “Only when peace and security returns to all corners of CAR will people feel empowered to reinvest in their lives.”

The need to promote and restore social cohesion featured prominently in discussions with senior officials from the Transitional Authority, religious and community leaders as well as displaced people. An indispensable component to restore trust across sectarian and ethnics divides and address grievances is equality of rights.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Mr. Beyani, stressed that “all Central African must enjoy the same rights, including freedom of movement for all. This applies to all displaced populations too. No one should be stopped from moving within the country, to cross borders on their way out or back in. People have the choice to choose solutions best suited to their needs and situation and their choices must be supported and respected”. This will contribute much to restoring social cohesion.

Mr. Beyani recalled that CAR was one of the first signatories of the Kampala Convention on IDPs. He also welcomed the development of a national policy on internal displacement, and encourages the authorities to translate the convention into practical solutions for IDPs.

With regards to the humanitarian action, ECHO Director of Operations, Jean-Louis de Brouwer confirmed the continuous support of the European Union to the transition process as well as its commitment to address on-going humanitarian needs and alleviate human suffering too. He reiterated that aid is delivered on the basis of needs, regardless of religious, political or ethnic affiliations.

“Humanitarian organizations are here to help everyone and anyone who needs assistance. In so doing, humanitarian workers take great risks. Ensuring access to population in need and safeguarding humanitarian space is therefore essential to preserve the ability of aid groups to operate independently.”

The high level mission also noted another essential principle which needs to be reinstated in the current context is the absolute necessity to distinguish combatants and armed elements from civilian population. In all the sites, camps and enclave visited, the presence of armed groups, mingling freely among the community endangers the protection of IDPs. The delegation stressed that it is vital to take all necessary steps to preserve the civilian nature of IDP camps and sites.

Finally, the three members of the delegation reiterate the commitment of humanitarian organizations, the UN and ECHO to the people of CAR and the national authorities. They will take the messages they received from officials and vulnerable people back to their respective headquarters and will ensure that the actions from humanitarian community bridges to development partners.
More emphasis on rebuilding resilience has been identified as imperative and will be the focus of common engagement well beyond the current period of transition.

“We will continue to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable while engaging with the broader international community to help Central Africans bring about peace and create the momentum for longer term development,” Ms. Kang concluded.

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

For more information, visit:
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/IDPersonsIndex.aspx  
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): http://www.unocha.org/
European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO): http://ec.europa.eu/echo/

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IDPersons/Pages/Standards.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Central African Republic: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CFIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Harriet Hirst (+41 22 917 9172 / idp@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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