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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Helping Internally Displaced Peoples

Today, the University of Louisville announced the 2005 winner of the $200,000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

James Carroll, a writer for the local Courier-Journal newspaper wrote a fine article about the winners and their ideas for helping "internally displaced peoples."
Francis Deng, a former U.N. special representative and a former Sudanese foreign minister, and Roberta Cohen, a senior fellow of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, developed global standards for aiding as many as 30 million people displaced by civil war or natural disaster.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article too, if you have a subscription.

Note that internally displaced persons are not refugees. Indeed, because the latter are granted certain protections under international law, the former often face far greater hardships in their lives. Bluntly, many are displaced as a result of the policies made by the very same governments that they would depend upon for any relief.

Sovereignty is a major barrier to international efforts to provide assistance.

Deng and Cohen have argued for a "responsibility to protect" these internally displaced persons and their work has been quite influential over the past decade. Recent attention given to the crisis in the Sudan, for example, partly reflects the success of their project. Their work has helped create new global understandings about the need to resettle and reintegrate the displaced. Here's what Deng had to say when questioned about his work in specific states:
"Look, I come here recognizing this is an internal problem, it falls under your sovereignty, and I'm respectful of your sovereignty. But I don't see sovereignty as a way of closing the doors on the international community's concerns with the suffering of people needing assistance and protection.

"I see sovereignty as a concept of responsibility by a state to protect its citizens, to give them the assistance that they need," Deng said.

"And if the state cannot do it because of a lack of resources or a lack of capacity, then it should fall on the international community."
Again, this is becoming a widely accepted way of viewing the problem:
Bill Freylick, director of the refugee program for Amnesty International USA, said Cohen and Deng "are very effective advocates, and they have done really a remarkable job in influencing heads of state, ambassadors to the United Nations, the heads of U.N. humanitarian agencies and the nongovernmental field as well."

...Freylick said Cohen and Deng took the sovereignty defense of nations that want to avoid international scrutiny and "turned it on its head."

"They have broken new ground," he said. "The guiding principles on internal displacement have shifted the focus on uprooted people generally to create a much broader recognition of the human-rights violations that face people who are essentially refugees except that they haven't crossed an international border."
Deng and Cohen said that the cash prize "will be spent on the project they direct on internal displacement."

Disclosure: I oversee the administration of this prize.

Note also: the "responsibility to protect" logic has also been employed by some to discuss a "duty to prevent" unconventional security threats from rogue states with WMD and/or terrorists.

This has implications for the debate about the so-called "Bush Doctrine," but for now I'll reserve further comment on the continued life or death of that policy.

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