|IDPs in a DRC camp/IDMC- Nicolas Postal|
Across the world, millions of people are forced to flee their homes because of war, natural disasters and other reasons, but have not crossed an internationally recognised border: they are internally displace people (IDPs). As such, they are not refugees and don’t have any special status under international law.
But today, Africa has made global history by pioneering a ground-breaking new legal framework to protect and assist them. The Kampala Convention, which came into force today (6th December 2012), is a tool designed by Africa for Africans, which binds governments to provide legal protection for the rights and well-being of those forced to flee inside their home countries due to conflict, violence, natural disasters or development projects.
Almost 40 per cent of the all the people worldwide who have been displaced within their own country as a result of conflict or violence live in Africa. The continent is home to 9.8 million people displaced by conflict – almost four times the number of refugees in the region. When those forced from their homes by other events, such as natural disasters are included, this figure is even higher.The Kampala Convention is an innovative and comprehensive framework that seeks to address the needs of internally displaced people and the communities that take them in, and to help them find solutions to reestablish their lives. Among measures national authorities must take under the Kampala Convention are:
• gathering data on and identify IDPs to understand where they are and what they need.
• providing personal ID documents.
• tracing family members and help to reunite them
• consult with IDPs in decisions related to their needs
“The reality is that right now, people are forced to flee their homes for a whole host of causes, from natural disasters such as floods and droughts, forced evictions because of development projects such as dam building or logging projects, as well as war, conflict and violence,’’ said Kim Mancini, Senior Training and Legal Officer at the Internal DisplacementMonitoring Centre (IDMC). ‘’The Kampala Convention is comprehensive in that it addresses the multiple causes of displacement, so this signals an important step towards addressing the plight of millions of Africans who are uprooted from their homes.’’
"While recognising the responsibility on states and enabling IDPs to claim their rights is a huge achievement, and one which we hope will encourage other world leaders to follow suit, this is a beginning, not an end,” says Sebastían Albuja, Head of the Africa Department at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre(IDMC). “The convention will not in itself create significant concrete change for internally displaced people until measures are taken by the 15 countries currently legally bound by the convention to ensure that it is reflected in their national legislation and made into a concrete reality.’’
The Convention was actually adopted by the African Union (AU) on 23 October 2009. But it only came into force today, 30 days after Swaziland became the 15th country to ratify it, pushing the Convention over the threshold necessary for it to become legally binding.
The countries which have ratified the Kampala Convention are:
Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and most recently, Swaziland.
While 15 countries are now legally bound by the convention, 37 of the 53 countries in the AU have signed it, which means that they are committed to its content, but they are not legally bound by it. "The countries who have not yet adopted the convention must do so, as a legal framework is the very basis of ensuring the rights and well-being of people forced to flee inside their home country’’ says Albuja.