Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review of Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace

Suha Priyadarshini Chakravorty

Note: The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs coupled with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana had organised a seminar on Internal Displacement and Peace building at Bogota, Columbia, from 11-12 November, 2008, the proceedings of which are presented in Internal Displacement and the Construction of Peace: Summary Report

The report on Internal Displacement and Peace-building in Columbia proffers an exclusive dimension on the relationship underlined between internal displacement and peace. It emphasises the role of the various actors such as governments, multi-lateral organisations, academic institutions, civil society and representatives of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) that by their way of dynamic negotiations and co-operations predicates the course of the peace-building process. The report seeks to respond to the needs of protection and assistance of the displaced people especially in crisis situations of armed conflicts and violence. It holds that the rights of the IDPs and sustainable solutions cannot be achieved as long as lasting peace is not realized. Simultaneously it harps on a correlation of the issues pertinent to internal displacement that need to be included in different phases of the peace building processes in order to ensure ‘durable’ outcomes.

The report states that the way the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (since 2005), had been supporting the cause of IDPs and had enthusiastically assisted the Peace initiative of the Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement has worked, they had been able to bridge the hiatus between peace building and humanitarian issues related to internal displacement in a rationally consistent manner since. Additionally Peace agreements and Peace-Building (2007) have been central for the successful dissemination of the study’s results both at the multilateral and bilateral levels. Working groups have also contributed in terms of having explored the following relationship between a) Land and territory, b) Transitional Justice, c) Durable solutions, d) Participation of IDPs and e) Right of IDPs in the context of dealing with the IDP agenda in general.

It becomes evident herein that the constant plea for peace is the result of armed groups operating in Columbia. There is thus a deliberate need to look at the structural causes of displacement especially the expansion of mega projects and the intervening factors such as the drug war. It was also observed that the impact of the conflict on the ethnic populace given their historical and cultural attachments to the land has had deep-rooted ramifications in the IDP crisis. While the governmental response was largely identifying the nature of the victims (that involved both a question of political responsibility as well as a moral commitment) and thereby providing humanitarian assistance, the RSG went further in taking a step towards recognising IDPs not merely as victims and passive recipients of aid and assistance, but as active participants who could exercise will and choice in making ‘justice’ participatory.

Interestingly certain key issues come into critical purview in the report. The fact that displacement and the process of peace building have had repercussions on each other had been the steady narrative of the report. The report further focuses on the various quandaries of especially ‘land’ (absence of a centralised registry, inadequate mechanisms of registering information, diversity of relations corresponding to the differing land situations, multiple types of displacement coupled with the decreasing autonomy of international cooperation to work directly with the affected) in Columbia that has augmented the conflicts in the region. It has also been realised that the IDPs have been the major victims that have arisen as a category post conflict situations in Columbia and that there is a need to shift from the welfarist aid offering approach to a more participatory approach whereby the IDPs would be involved in the process of peace building through transitional justice. Thus the report highlights the importance of sustainable solutions that need to be achieved through such transitional justice, adequate monitoring systems including adequate ‘laws’ coupled with international cooperation that can dually solve post displacement hangovers and effectively contribute towards peace-building.

The report in it’s reiterations maintains that since the ‘internally displaced people’ represent one of the most vulnerable categories that suffer the consequences of wars, and have specific needs, governments must protect and assist them in accordance with those specificities. The report however gets entangled into the problem of circularity with regard to its explanation on the question of ensuring ‘durable solutions.’ While it states on the one hand that without peace there is no hope for durable solutions it on the other maintains that durable peace is but the result of durable solutions. However the way in which the report upholds the notion of Truth, Justice and Reparation in acknowledging the true measure of displacement dilemmas and problem solving tactics particularly in the case of the IDPs, talks of more than a commitment that transgresses welfarist ideals towards a more participatory global ethos of cooperation and peace-building.

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