1 July 2008
Maputo and Geneva: – Mozambique is a disaster-prone country, affected by recurrent floods, cyclones and droughts, exacerbating the already high vulnerability of the population. “Relocation of those living in disaster-prone areas to safe areas can increase the security of populations, but should only be resorted to, if there are no other and less intrusive solutions and if it is sustainable. This is crucial for the protection of the human rights of the persons displaced by the disasters. While impressive efforts have been undertaken by the Mozambican Government, including the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC), and local and international partners, this goal remains a big challenge and will take time to accomplish.” These are the main conclusions of Prof. Walter Kaelin, Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons at the end of his working visit to the Republic of Mozambique.
The Representative calls upon the Government and the international community to put additional emphasis on taking measures to provide the displaced with adequate housing and services and reestablish their livelihoods as well as to ensure that the long term needs of women and children and the most vulnerable among the displaced such as persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS are addressed. The lack of funding for the recovery phase is of great concern to the Representative.
In his meetings with line Ministries and governmental institutions, the Representative welcomed the activities undertaken to reduce the disaster risk and the effective emergency response. “I am impressed by what I have seen of the willingness and the actions undertaken by the Government, particularly the INGC,” he said at the end of his field visit in Caia, Sofala Province, where he visited three relocation centers: Magagade, Inácio Bengala and Zimbawe.
“The institutional set-up and the decentralized structure of the governmental actors involved in disaster preparedness, response and recovery is commendable and could serve as a model for other countries”, the Representative said and encouraged the authorities to strengthen the local capacities in these areas.
Complex challenges in the recovery phase remain nonetheless. “Relocation to safe areas is both critical and difficult. It is a dilemma between the Government’s duty to protect the life of those displaced and their right to move freely and chose their place of living.” While commending the positive aspects in the current process of settling people elsewhere, the Representative recommends that the Government increases its consultation with the displacement-affected communities and enhances their participation on the decisions concerning their future. In addition, the Representative underlines the importance of providing proper and culturally acceptable solutions to ensure that affected populations can enjoy their rights to adequate housing, health and education, in particular in areas of relocation. In order to avoid the return to living in high-risk areas, continued access to livelihoods needs to be guaranteed to allow people to sustain their living. Disaster risk reduction, e.g. the construction and rehabilitation of dykes and dams, should be undertaken to reduce the risks in places of return. Such risk reduction activities should be integrated in the current development strategies.
During this working visit, the Representative met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Minister of State Administration, the Minister of Coordination of Environmental Affairs, the Vice-Minister of Women and Social Action, and the Ministry of Justice as well as the Vulnerability Assessment Team of SETSAN and representatives of international organizations. He visited relocation centers in Caia and spoke with local authorities, non-governmental organizations as well as with traditional leaders and the displaced persons themselves.
Mr. Kaelin assumed office as Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in 2004. He is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to enter into dialogue with governments and international actors in order to enhance the protection of the human rights of internally displaced persons. In support of his mandate, he undertakes working visits and missions to countries affected by internal displacement. Most recently he has travelled to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Kenya and Bosnia and he will be on working visit to Madagascar in the upcoming week.
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