Two years after the Syrian revolution began, there is much wider recognition of the dire humanitarian needs inside the country, and support for expanding cross-border aid activities is increasing. The United Nations, a handful of international non-governmental organizations, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent all have humanitarian operations inside Syria. The Syrian regime, however, significantly restricts their ability to conduct these operations. As a result, relatively little humanitarian aid is available in Syria. Broader aid distribution is urgently needed. This will require donors to develop means of assistance that rely less on traditional agencies and actors, such as supporting the networks of local Syrian groups and activists which have successfully delivered aid. With the modest resources currently available for distributing aid in a challenging environment, innovative methods to efficiently identify and meet the needs of those inside of Syria must be developed, tested, funded, and expanded appropriately.
Au cours de l’Automne 2012, des centaines de milliers de personnes ont fuit leur maison en République Démocratique du Congo (RDC) à la suite d’affrontements entre le groupe rebelle M23 et l’armée congolaise. La province du Nord Kivu a vu à elle seule 914 000 personnes se réfugier dans des camps et auprès de familles d’accueil. Malheureusement, l’agence des Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés (HCR) coordonne seulement l’assistance destinée aux résidents des camps, 112 000 personnes, soit un neuvième de la population déplacée. Les personnes déplacées en zones reculées, en particulier celles vivant dans des « sites spontanés » et dans des familles d’accueil, ne peuvent bénéficier des mécanismes de coordination mis en place, et reçoivent trop souvent peu voire pas d’assistance ou de protection. Les violences basées sur le genre (VBG) sont endémiques, et les programmes de protection destinés aux femmes et filles sont insuffisants. Désormais, et plus que jamais, les acteurs humanitaires en RDC doivent améliorer la coordination de l’aide humanitaire et s’assurer que la mise en place de l’assistance se fait selon des critères de vulnérabilité plutôt que de statut.
In the fall of 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fled their homes following fighting between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army. In North Kivu province alone, 914,000 people took shelter in camps and with host families. Unfortunately, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) only coordinates support for those persons living in official camps – 112,000 people, or one ninth of the displaced population.
Displaced persons in remote areas, particularly those living in “spontaneous settlements” and with host families, have been left out of coordination mechanisms, and in many cases they have received little to no assistance or protection. Gender-based violence (GBV) is rampant, and programs to protect women and girls are insufficient. Now more than ever, aid actors in the DRC need to improve aid coordination and ensure that assistance is based on vulnerability rather than status.
The recent increase in displacement due to conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has multiplied the risk of gender-based violence (GBV). At the same time, coordination efforts by the international aid community are failing to address the needs of women and girls. In 2009, United Nations Action on Sexual Violence in Conflict drafted a comprehensive strategy for combating sexual violence in the DRC, which was then adopted by the DRC government. However, challenges with leadership, information sharing, and funding are hindering implementation of this strategy and actually obstructing urgent response to beneficiaries. To ensure effective prevention and response to GBV, the current coordination mechanism should be abandoned in favor of a structure better suited to humanitarian crises.
In December 2012, the Government of Kenya announced a directive that
would force all refugees living in cities to relocate to camps, and shut
down all registration and service provision to refugees and
asylum-seekers in cities. This effectively empowered Kenyan security
services to unleash a wave of abuse against refugees. That Kenya has not
yet gone ahead with a forced relocation plan has led some to believe
that the worst has been averted. Yet the directive caused severe harm
even without being implemented. Many refugees felt forced to leave
Nairobi following severe harassment. The directive has also been a
set-back to Kenya’s notable advances in enabling urban refugees to
support themselves, and it has put the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR)
global urban refugee policy at risk.
Depuis que des groupes islamistes radicaux ont pris le contrôle du nord du Mali en début d’année, l’attention locale et internationale s’est concentrée sur des plans visant à chasser les insurgés grâce à l’intervention d’une force militaire dirigée par l’Afrique. Mais cette stratégie a laissé dans l’ombre les besoins encore insatisfaits et croissants des Maliens déplacés, dont la majorité a fui vers le sud du pays. Bien qu’il soit facilement possible d’accéder à eux, les Maliens déplacés n’ont à ce jour reçu que très peu d’aide. Étant donné que le gouvernement civil et l’armée malienne sont tous deux en déroute, il faudra du temps pour que le processus politique puisse se remettre en route, et que l’armée se consolide pour reprendre le nord. Pendant ce temps, répondre aux besoins des déportés du sud doit devenir une priorité. D’autre part, étant donné la probabilité d’une détérioration grandissante des conditions humanitaires dans le nord ainsi que le sud, la coordination de la réponse humanitaire doit être améliorée. Il est crucial que l’on apporte un soin particulier à ce que des plans d’urgence humanitaires bien développés et disposant de ressources soient mis en place et prêts à être déployés.
Since hard-line Islamist groups took control of northern Mali earlier this year, regional and international attention has focused on plans for an African-led military force to drive out the insurgents. But this focus has distracted from the unmet and growing needs of displaced Malians, the majority of whom have fled to the country's south. Although easily accessible, they have received only limited assistance to date. With both the civilian government and the Malian army in a state of disarray, it will take time to get the political process on track and the army in shape to retake the north. In the meantime, meeting the needs of those displaced in the south must be prioritized. In addition, given the likelihood of a further deterioration of humanitarian conditions in both the north and south, coordination of the humanitarian response must be improved and far more emphasis must be placed on ensuring that well-developed and resourced humanitarian contingency plans are in place and ready for implementation.
The civil war in Syria has forced large numbers of Syrians from their homes, and in many cases from the country entirely. Refugees continue to flee in record numbers, and there are currently almost 400,000 registered or waiting for registration in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey combined. The United Nations has said it expects this number could reach 700,000 by December 31, 2012. About half of all the registered Syrians are living in camps, but the other half remain in local host communities trying to get by on their own.
In Syria, women and girls are being targeted for rape on a massive scale. This is one of the primary reasons many are fleeing to Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. As refugees, however, these women and girls remain vulnerable to multiple forms of gender-based violence (GBV). This crisis requires urgent action. The United Nations Refugee Agency should immediately prioritize protecting Syrian women and girls to ensure they receive greater assistance and prevent further violence against them.
There are currently 1.36 million Somalis displaced within their own country. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) face major protection challenges – including abuse and aid diversion by camp gatekeepers, as well as the threat of forced evictions. These vulnerabilities are not new to Somalia’s displaced population, but the context is changing. Refugees International recently conducted assessments of IDP settlements in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, Somaliland. In Mogadishu, security and stability is improving, and the election of a new president in September has generated cautious optimism throughout the capital. To the north, the relative stability of the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland has primed it for long-term development opportunities. Unfortunately, while conditions in parts of Somalia are improving, the country’s internally displaced population is at risk of being left behind.
Despite an abundance of natural resources, Rakhine State is the second-poorest state in Burma. The simmering tension that exists between the Rakhine and stateless Rohingya communities has been stoked by poverty for decades. However, in June 2012 that tension boiled over. What began as inter-communal violence was followed by a wave of state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya, along with a refusal to allow humanitarian agencies access to the northern part of the state, where the majority of Rohingya live. In October, Rohingya and other Muslim communities were attacked again, resulting in the destruction of thousands of houses, the displacement of tens of thousands of people, and an unknown number of deaths. In the state capital, Sittwe, tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya are now living in segregated, squalid camps outside of town and cut off from their livelihoods. The conflict has brought much-deserved international attention to the long-neglected situation of Burma’s Rohingya. The fact that it is taking place during a period of dramatic change in the country’s governance presents the world with a chance to finally put an end to discrimination against the Rohingya and restore their citizenship.
For decades, Burmese Rohingya fleeing persecution have sought refuge in Bangladesh. June’s inter-communal violence in Burma’s Rakhine State, as well as subsequent state-sponsored persecution and targeted attacks against Muslim populations, have cast an international spotlight on this neglected population, and offered an opportunity to resolve the status of both stateless Rohingya inside Burma and those Rohingya who are refugees in neighboring countries. This could be an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage fully on this issue and develop its long-awaited refugee policy. Instead, the nation is rallying against the Rohingya by refusing entry to refugees and restricting humanitarian assistance. This response, besides representing a breach of international law, will weaken Bangladesh’s ability to secure international support as discussions of the Rohingya's plight intensify. The governments of Bangladesh and Burma should be engaging in bilateral - and perhaps multilateral - discussions about how to protect the rights of the Rohingya community.
Colombia alberga el número más grande del mundo de personas en condición
de desplazamiento interno (PsCDI), la mayoría de los cuales vive en
zonas urbanas. El conflicto armado continúa desplazando más de 130 000
personas anualmente. Una vez desplazados, estos colombianos enfrentan
con frecuencia pobreza extrema, viven en asentamientos inseguros y
sufren exclusión económica y social. Ayudar a las PsCID urbano a pasar
de una situación de sufrimiento y vulnerabilidad permanente a una de
independencia e inclusión social, transformará a Colombia en una nación
más estable y próspera. La nueva Ley de Víctimas provee un marco
organizativo para alcanzar este objetivo. Aunque el gobierno colombiano
parece contar con la voluntad política necesaria para lograr un progreso
real, problemas de coordinación, excesiva descentralización y una débil
capacidad local, amenazan con desarticular la implementación de la
nueva ley. El gobierno central de Colombia debe proveer recursos y
activar la veeduría de los programas de integración local para las PsCDI
urbano. El gobierno de los Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) y la Agencia de la
Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) deben invertir los recursos
necesarios para el diseño y pilotaje de las iniciativas de integración
local para las PsCDI urbano, así como también profundizar su compromiso
con las autoridades locales y asistir a las organizaciones no
gubernamentales (ONGs) locales en su labor de cabildeo en favor de
programas efectivos para dicha población.
Colombia is home to the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, the majority of whom live in urban areas. Armed conflict continues to displace more than 130,000 people annually. Once displaced, these Colombians frequently endure extreme poverty, live in unsafe settlements, and suffer social and economic exclusion. Helping urban IDPs move from conditions of sustained suffering and vulnerability to self-reliance and social inclusion will transform Colombia into a more stable and prosperous nation. The new Victims Law provides an organizing framework for achieving this goal. Although the Colombian government appears to possess the political will necessary to make real progress, coordination problems, excessive decentralization, and weak local capacity threaten to derail the implementation of the new law. Colombia’s central government must provide resources and active oversight of local integration programs for urban IDPs. The U.S. government and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) must invest the resources necessary to design and pilot local integration initiatives for urban IDPs, as well as deepen their engagement with local authorities and assist local NGOs to advocate for effective IDP programs.
Since early 2012, Lebanon and Jordan have seen a dramatic increase in
the number of refugees crossing their borders as the Syrian government
intensifies its crackdown on opposition groups. Despite the fact that
neither country has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967
Protocol, both have accommodated those fleeing Syria, providing services
and assistance despite their own strained resources. As host countries,
Lebanon and Jordan are at a breaking point and need robust support –
for both the host communities and the refugee populations – in order to
maintain the safe havens they currently offer. The international
community must act by creating a solid refugee response that supports
those in need and preserves regional stability.
Another food crisis in the Sahel has put 18 million people at risk. Armed conflict in Mali has now compounded the situation, forcing more than 180,000 people to flee to neighboring countries. These refugees are arriving in remote areas facing acute food and water shortages. While agencies have quickly scaled up to provide life-saving assistance, resources are dwindling and additional support is needed for both Malian refugees and their host communities. Allowing the situation to languish risks lives and threatens to undermine an already-fragile coexistence. Going forward, humanitarian assistance must be accompanied by long-term investments that address the threat that food insecurity, climate change, and regional instability present to the Sahel.
As the newest nation in the world, the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) is undertaking the monumental task of building a nation state. Creating a functioning government would be an epic challenge for any country, but it is even greater for RoSS because it is faced with millions of displaced people, internal and external conflict, widespread food insecurity, a stagnant economy, and a population that includes dozens of tribes, ethnicities, indigenous communities and identities. The situation is further complicated by the internal conflict that re-ignited in South Sudan following the decades-long civil war. During the war, southerners were pitted against a common enemy in Khartoum. Now, absent that enemy, competing tribal and ethnic interests are fueling internal conflict, such as in Jonglei state. To ensure the successful transition of RoSS to a functioning nation, an identity must emerge that trumps all these competing interests. Citizenship should be based on place of birth or familial origin without any regard to the person’s color, faith, tribe, ethnicity, or other attribute.
The day-to-day reality for ordinary people in the Democratic Republic of
Congo includes all of the following: latent insecurity, ongoing
military operations, and systematic attacks by armed groups – including
units of the Congolese military. The international community has been
providing humanitarian assistance to the DRC for over a decade and a
half, but the need remains acute. The local UN peacekeeping operation
(MONUSCO) dedicates the majority of its scarce resources to the
protection of civilians, and will need to maintain this critical effort
for the foreseeable future. Creative protection efforts by the
peacekeepers need to be reinforced and supported. Protection monitoring
and coordination efforts – led by the UN Refugee Agency – also need to
Heavy rains and flooding in Colombia over the past fifteen months have affected more than three million people. While the initial humanitarian response was weak, there have been noteworthy improvements both on the ground and institutionally. But with significant numbers of people still displaced or affected by the disaster, challenges remain. Increased support is needed to address ongoing problems at poorly maintained shelters and to help affected communities restart their lives. Ambitious plans to relocate people away from at-risk areas will require the full participation of affected communities if they are to succeed. On the national level, major changes are underway to strengthen disaster management and build climate resilience. Nevertheless, weak local institutions threaten to undermine new and ambitious central government initiatives. Local capacity-building and accountability mechanisms must be prioritized.
Las lluvias e inundaciones intensas ocurridas en los últimos quince meses en Colombia han afectado a más de tres millones de personas. Si bien la respuesta humanitaria inicial fue débil, ha habido notables avances tanto al nivel institucional como en el terreno. A pesar de todo, con un número aún significativo de personas desplazadas o afectadas por el desastre, los desafíos persisten. Se requiere mayor apoyo para responder a los continuos problemas en los albergues pobremente mantenidos, así como para ayudar a las comunidades afectadas a reiniciar sus vidas. Los ambiciosos planes de reubicación de personas lejos de áreas de riesgo requerirán la completa participación de las comunidades afectadas si quieren alcanzar el éxito. A nivel nacional, se están gestando cambios importantes con miras a fortalecer el manejo de desastres y a construir resiliencia climática. No obstante, instituciones locales débiles amenazan con socavar las nuevas y ambiciosas iniciativas del gobierno central. Deben priorizarse, por tanto, la generación de capacidad a nivel local, así como los mecanismos de rendición de cuentas.
The United Nations has declared that famine conditions in south-central Somalia no longer exist. But the ongoing conflict in the country, coupled with a precarious food situation, will keep large numbers of Somali refugees from voluntarily returning anytime soon – this despite the rising insecurity in refugee-hosting areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. This insecurity poses a serious threat to protection and services for refugees. However, it also provides an opportunity to shake-up the unsustainable way that agencies have delivered services for decades. Despite security restrictions on access, donor governments must maintain their level of focus and funding for refugee operations in the region.
Syrians are taking refuge along the eastern border of Lebanon by the thousands. More than 2,000 people fled from Syria into Lebanon in the first week of March alone, bringing the total estimate of displaced Syrians in that country to at least 13,000. Humanitarian operations in much of the north, led by Lebanon’s HRC and the UNHCR, are inadequate. Much more assistance must be provided to those arriving in the east, south of Beirut, and in Tripoli. Lebanon has a long history of hosting Iraqi refugees and the same goodwill should be extended to Syrians. To fill humanitarian gaps, all displaced Syrians should be permitted to register and receive assistance regardless of their location in Lebanon. Local leaders and organizations with the experience to provide humanitarian aid must be identified and leveraged to enhance the quality and reach of necessary assistance.
As many as 100,000 people living in Kuwait are stateless. Called “bidoon” over the last twelve months thousands have been gathering peacefully in Taima Square to insist that the government recognize their Kuwaiti nationality. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and beatings have all been used to quell the demonstrators. Refugees International (RI) is calling on the Government of Kuwait to refrain from any further use of violence and to investigate serious allegations of abuse by special security forces. As well, pending applications for nationality filed by the stateless bidoon should be fairly and transparently adjudicated as a matter of priority.
After nearly 50 years of brutal military rule, Burma is embarking upon a landmark transition to civilian administration. The country has seen some promising political reforms. But the world’s longest civil war, coupled with natural disasters within the country, has created serious humanitarian needs which still persist. Recently, the Burmese government has demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with humanitarian agencies. The international community must seize this opportunity to ensure that the needs of the displaced are met, the military’s abuse of human rights are stemmed, and ethnic conflicts progress toward peaceful resolution. Only by addressing both political reform and ethnic conflict will policymakers be able to break the cycles of violence that have gripped the people of Burma.
The Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) is going through a major displacement crisis. The country is playing host to tens of thousands of refugees who fled fighting in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States. In addition to this, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced due to violence within South Sudan itself. The country also has to contend with a large influx of southerners returning from northern cities. This crisis could soon become overwhelming for the world’s newest country – a country already struggling to deliver security and basic services to its citizens. If this displacement crisis is not adequately addressed, all the positive efforts now being made to incorporate returnees into the social, political, and economic fabric of South Sudan will be short lived.