Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG) and Nepal Institute of Peace (NIP) in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), Kathmandu organised a three day orientation workshop on “Care and Protection of Refugees and IDPs” in Nepal from 21-23 November 2010 which attended by representatives from refugee groups (primarily Tibetans and Bhutanese), research scholars, advocates, social workers and students who are interested to learn and excel in the field of forced migration studies. The resource persons were practitioners and academics who had immense expertise on the field of forced migration as well as socio-political dynamics of Nepal and the region.
The lectures, roundtable discussions were organised under the following themes:-
•Gender dimensions of Displacement in South Asia
•Conflict and Forced Migration in Nepal
•Forced Migration and Protection Practices for Refugees in Nepal
•Resource Politics, Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Displacement.
The workshop started with the inaugural roundtable discussion on the theme Displaced Voices: Voices from the Camps on 21 November 2010. This was a public event and was attended by noted scholars, activists and university students. Shiva Kumar Dhungana, President, NIP in his inaugural remarks presented a historical background of Refugees and IDPs in Nepal which was followed by self introduction of the participants and guests of the session. The session was moderated by Lok Raj Baral, Professor of Political Science, Executive Chair of National Centre for Contemporary Studies (NCCR). Mr. Nar Bahadur Giri and Mr. Bishnu Magar, both Bhutanese Refugees, shared their experiences of camp life and the protection mechanisms initiated by humanitarian agencies and the Government of Nepal. Paula Banerjee, Senior Researcher, Calcutta Research Group highlighted the gendered experiences of camp life drawing experiences of her work in SriLanka, Nepal and India. She also highlighted the vulnerabilities and risks of women and children in the camps and how women are subject to double marginalization owing to the increasing domestic violence in camps which often goes unnoticed in such conflict situations. She also brought into the discussion the situation of IDP camps in Nepal. Following the three presentations, various other concerns were raised by the participants; primarily durable solutions of refugees problems especially Bhutanese refugees and Tibetan Refugees in Nepal, the issues of displacement, return of IDPs, UN Guiding Principles on IDPs, national IDPs policies, International refugees law, roles and responsibilities of UNHCR to protect refugees.
On 22 November 2010, in the inaugural lecture on “South Asian Experiences on Forced Migration: A feminist view point” Paula Banerjee highlighted the issues of women, children and other dependents, different layers of problem craters in Camp. Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty, noted historian and senior member, Calcutta Research Group chaired this session. This was followed by Amit Sen’s (Protection Officer, UNHCR, Nepal) lecture on “Relevance of National and International Instruments for Protection of Refugees and IDPs with special reference to 1951 Convention and UN Guiding Principles. In this lecture, the legal definitions of refugee, IDPs and the international instruments were examined and discussed. In the next roundtable session on “Practices and Challenges of Refugee Protection”, Diane Goodman (Deputy- Representative, UNHCR, Nepal) in her lucid presentation highlighted certain important and crucial ways of looking at protection mechanisms. She began her presentation by sharing with us the definition of International Protection referring to the series of ICRC conducted workshops. She also went to discuss the actors involved in the protection mechanisms available to refugees. Finally she emphasised on the invisible sections of population who are often left out in discussion on protection. She felt that youth, women and elderly population need special assistance. She concluded her presentation with a need for three kinds of safety mechanisms that any protection mechanism should achieve: physical safety, material safety and legal safety. After this presentation Stephane Jaquemet Hon’ble Representative of UNHCR Nepal engaged in an interactive session with participants where he addressed several concerns and issues relating to various refugee populations in Nepal. He addressed several interesting issues relating settlement and international refugee law, 1951 convention and discussed the status of certain refugee groups namely Bhutanese and Tibetans. Hari Sharma (Director, Social Science BAHA) the moderator of the session ended with a comment that refugee issues are primarily humanitarian issues and it is significant the group sees the inter linkages between humanitarian issues and political issues as both are interdependent on each other. This was followed by a discussion on the assignments that the participants had submitted during the course of the distance education segment. The participants were divided into two groups where they presented a summary of the assignments and they received feedback on their respective presentations.
The day ended with two interesting presentations on status of conflict induced IDPs in Nepal. Subodh Raj Pyakurel, (Human Rights Activists and chairperson of Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC)) highlighted the national policy on IDPs and INSEC’s contribution to protect the IDPs in Nepal. He began his presentation with a brief overview of the armed conflict in Nepal. He then went on to discuss the international framework for the protection of the IDPs and the national framework for the protection of the IDPs (under Interim Constitution 2006, National Policy for Internally Displaced People, 2007). Under National Policy for Internally Displaced People, 2007 the three main aims are: protection of human rights, regarding relief and rehabilitation. INSEC has practical experiences on working with internally displaced persons during conflict situation in Nepal. INSEC had started its working in the field of IDPs since 2005, during the phase of armed conflict itself. Most highlighted work during that phase was the successful returning of the IDPs in Jumla on June 27,2005 for the first time with the support of DFID. Total of 1173 persons were successfully returned to their respective homes from 2005-2006 with the support of various stakeholders namely, DFID, ActionAid, Luthron and Caritas. A project entitled "Advocating for Appropriate and Coordinated IDPs Return" was implemented in 5 districts (Morang, Dhanusha, Baglung, Surkhet and Kailali) in 5 development regions from February – May 2007, where large number of IDPs had been living. Monitoring and research, documentation, networking and coalition building, communication and information sharing were the modalities of the program implementation. The main objectives of the project were to return and reintegrate IDPs in their respective residences and to ease the environment for government to commit for providing short term relief support to the IDPs. INSEC implemented the project named "Assistance of IDP Returnees in Nepal" in 24 districts of Mid and Far-Western development regions from August 2007 to August 2008 with the financial support from USAID and technical support of SC/US and in co-ordination with NRCS. This project was aimed to make the environment favorable to return back the displaced people in their places of origin, INSEC conducted 35 events of district level interactions with the concerned stakeholders to share the findings of assessment as well ass to make then aware on the provisions in the CPA, the Interim Constitution and Policy and Directives on IDPs. Uma Joshi from National Human Rights Commission, Nepal in her report on “Conflict induced IDPs : Return and Reintegration” mentioned causes of forced displacement, human rights issues of IDPs, facts and figure and various aspects of IDPs policy Implications. In her discussion on way forward, she highlights the policy initiaves undertaken by the Nepal Government : Adoption IDP Policy 2063, Formation of local Peace Committees (LPCs), Return & Reintegration Package. She argues that Government has undertaken few initiatives and initiated interventions for addressing displacement problem in Nepal. Besides, various humanitarian agencies(national & international) also have been doing several IDP-focused programs as obligation of non-state actore stated in the UN Guiding Principles. The state initiatives and interventions should largely be complimented and supplemented by humanitarian agencies in coordinated manner. Similarly, some implementation gaps are identified that should be taken seriously by all actors for its mitigation. Effective implementation needs capacity, will power and determination among government agencies those agencies should be enhanced with some mechanisms for the documentation of the information related to the displaced people. Since we are in the post conflict situation, the relief is no longer required because it never helps to establish their rights for the durable solutions. All the activities being undertaken by various agencies focusing for relief should be transformed to right-based activities with the ultimate target of any durable solutions such as Return, integration and resettlement.
On 23 November, 2010, the session began with Sharad Ghimire’s(Martin Chautari) presentation on “Climate change and displacement; Learning from Koshi Flood” where he discussed the brief situation of Kosi flood disaster, displacement, management of relief camps, return and resettlement. His presentation basically pointed the effects of climate change, its effects, possible disasters, response and protection mechanism at the affected regions. This was followed by Roopshree Joshi’s (Lutheran World Foundation) presentation on “Tibetan Settlements in Thangboche and Jawalakhel”. The main objective of this essay is document the lives of people in these settlements, and how their available livelihood options has been responsible for their assimilation and generated employment opportunities for the Nepalese as well. Roopshree in her presentation discussed the life in urban settlements like Jawalakel, Lalitpur and compared it with rural settlement like Thangboche settlement in Rasuwa. Having lived in exile for more than 50 years, the settlements have been following various livelihood measures that are available to them, considering the setting of the settlements and the environment. The handicraft centre at Jawalakhel is a pioneer of carpet weaving business. It brought about the revolution in the sense that when the carpet factory was established, many Tibetans who had the traditional skills could take it forward as livelihood measures in exile and also many Nepalese were employed in the carpet factory. The handicraft centre soon became a flourishing business and the carpet movement spread through out the country not only in the other settlements but also through out the country where people starting being involved in the enterprises. Tibetan carpet factory brought lots of revenue to the state coffers and also generated employment for Nepalese and Tibetans. After her presentation, Dorjee Damdul presented the problems relating livelihood, expectation on durable solutions for Tibetan Refugees. He spoke briefly about the New Arrival Project where UNHCR facilitates their safe transit through Nepal to a third country. He thanked UNHCR for the cooperation they extended towards Tibetan refugees. According to him, there are some areas that needed immediate attention : particularly identity documents, and travel documents. In the roundtable session on “Challenges to current policies on Bhutanese Refugees and Urban Refugees, Nini Gurung(UNHCR Kathmandu) and Shiva Dhungana raised certain crucial questions of protection policies. The workshop concluded with an evaluation session where the participants felt the need to organise such workshops on an annual basis in Nepal.
The valedictory session began with a note by Shiva Dhungana on the proceedings of the workshop after which Ajit Acharya (Nepal Institute of Peace) presented a short report on the course. This was followed by certificate distribution ceremony. 25 participants received certificates and 10 participants from Kathmandu University received letters of participation. Stephane Jacquemet, Hon’ble Representative from UNHCR Nepal where he congratulated Calcutta Research Group’s initiative to collaborate with Nepal Institute of Peace in hosting a workshop which brought representatives from refugee communities and scholars and activists on the same platform. He encouraged the organisers and the participants to take such initiatives in the near future. The workshop concluded with a valedictory address by Ranabir Samaddar (Director, Calcutta Research Group) on “Ethics of Care and Protection of the Displaced”. In his address, he began with a significant question “Why should we care for and protect the victims of forced displacement?” The “we” he went on to argue refers to those who have not had experienced displacement themselves, yet harbour some form of an ethical commitment to the victims of forced displacement. The ethical language is a means of establishing some form of a connection between them and us – between those who are not forcibly displaced and those who are. Ethics in other words cannot but be dialogical. Its language in no way denies agency to the victims. Ethical language therefore is a language of universality that cuts across the given boundaries of the victims’ groups and communities. One can therefore say that while ethical language has to be universal, the phenomenon of forced displacement is not. It is true that the incidence of forced displacement has been alarmingly on the rise – thanks to the forces and processes of globalization. However their number is still considerably smaller than that of the world’s settled population. Much of what the settled population groups do for the displaced population in the framework of various linkages is not to be seen as ethical practice. Ethics is considered essentially about the self, which cares for and holds itself responsible to the other. Caring for the other is regarded as the means to care for the self. He also briefly summarised the arguments in justification of the advocacies for care and protection of the displaced: (i) the rights-based argument (ii) community based arguments and both of them have their own limitations. He urged the audience to re-think the implications of power and its linkages with ethics to understand the way protection policies are framed and implemented. The session concluded with a vote of thanks by Shiva Dhungana.