Thursday, 12 December 2013

Africa’s Groundbreaking Convention on Internal Displacement Reaches First Anniversary

ADDIS-ABABA, 9 DECEMBER 2013: December 6th marked the first anniversary of the coming into force of the Kampala Convention.  This is the world’s first-ever continental instrument that legally obliges African governments to protect and assist Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  In a report released, the African Union Commission together with the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) took a look back to see what progress has been made since the Convention came into force last year.

Africa is home to almost a third of the world’s internally displaced persons, with 10.4 million people displaced by conflict and violence as of December 2012. Further to this, 8.2 million people were newly displaced by disasters such as floods and storms during 2012 alone. 

 “The magnitude of displacement in Africa calls for a response that goes beyond any one actor’s capabilities. Joining forces, rallying resources, expertise, and leadership from regional bodies, governments, and civil society is the only way in which we can chip away at the impact of internal displacement… Such a need for collaboration and participation is affirmed by the [Kampala] Convention,” the Commissioner for Political Affairs, H.E. Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi and the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland said in a joint forward in the report.

Using case studies from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, the joint report entitled ‘The Kampala Convention one year on: Progress and prospects,’ illustrates the multiple and interlinked causes that force people to flee their homes. For example, in Kenya, displacement is identified as the result of a combination or sequence of causes, which include inter-communal conflicts as well as severe droughts and weather events. Equally, in Nigeria in 2012, the most devastating floods in 40 years hit the country and displaced millions of people, adding to the vulnerabilities of those already fleeing from conflict and violence.

As well as displacement by conflict and natural disasters, the Kampala Convention also recognises other drivers of displacement such as forced evictions from development projects like dam building or mineral extraction. “This unique recognition makes it truly all-encompassing as it is only through an understanding of these various displacement drivers that relevant long-term solutions can be found,” said Alfredo Zamudio, Director of IDMC. 

According to this joint report, progress of the Kampala Convention has been uneven. Some states have made significant steps towards implementing its contents with Angola, Malawi and Rwanda all ratifying over the last 12 months, while 15 of the 54 AU members have yet to sign.