This research paper explores the challenges of applying current legal protection frameworks, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, to the changing nature and patterns of contemporary armed violence. The research will focus on two case studies: civil unrest, examining the Arab Uprisings and protracted violence in Syria; and urban violence. It [...]
While refugee numbers continue to decrease around the world, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to steadily rise. The fact that they remain within national territory means that they cannot seek to qualify as bona fide “refugees” entitled to the special protective regime accorded to refugees under international law. This paper explores the protection of IDPs as an emerging area of international law and seeks to understand the practical application of law as exemplified by international responses to the specificities of the north-south internal displacement phenomenon in the Sudan following the signing of the 9 January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The paper thus explores the application of international legal norms as public policy, in practice, and at the field level, while focusing on the abuse of the social, cultural, economic, political and civil rights of Sudanese IDPs.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been affected by civil war and state decay for many years causing a humanitarian catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. Following a series of peace accords, a Transitional Government was set up in June 2003 to implement the various agreements made and prepare elections for the first time in 40 years. The DRC remains, however, in a fragile position of there being no war and yet no peace. Furthermore, as this article explains, a protection crisis continues on a massive scale in the DRC with the civilian population being the principal target of the insecurity that pervades the east of the country. The transition process has had only a minimal impact on the continued violation of human rights. There are state, international and non governmental responses to the protection crisis in the DRC, but they remain weak in the face of the scale of the problem. Protection issues should feature more centrally in the international community’s support to the DRC and in a post-war environment there is more opportunity for this to happen.
This paper critically examines attempts to conceptualise the use of military intervention on humanitarian grounds, with a focus on the ‘responsibility to protect’ framework, and offers discussion of the way forward in light of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the US-led ‘war on terror’. It traces the history of the concept from its post-Cold War origins through to the UN World Summit of September 2005. The paper concludes with a brief review of the challenges that face the international community in moving forward, and the specific contributions that might be made by the UK government.
This paper is about an archetypal organization for delivering a new form of emergency aid. Locally-Led Advance Mobile Aid (LLAMA) is to be deployed when civilians trapped in conflict are dying and the chance of reaching them in time with conventional relief and protection is unlikely.
In its 2000 World Refugee Survey, the U.S. Committee for Refugees estimates that as of December 31, 1999, there were over 14 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide and at least 21 million internally displaced people. (1) The vast majority – as high as 75 percent – are women and young children. (2, 3, 4) In addition to experiencing the same hardships and security concerns as adult male refugees, women and children have special protection needs because of their gender and age. In particular, they need protection from sexual violence and exploitation, as well as physical violence and discrimination. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Sexual violence can encompass anything ranging from rape and other sexual physical assaults or attempts to offers of food, protection, documents or other assistance in exchange for sexual favors. (2, 3, 4, 6, 8) This article focuses on protecting women and children in refugee camps from all forms of sexual violence committed by male offenders. Here, the term “refugee” includes refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees. Similarly, a “refugee camp” refers to a temporary living arrangement where refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees may reside, but does not include detention facilities. By focusing on women and children, the authors do not suggest that men are not targets of sexual violence or that women cannot be offenders. (4, 8, 9) However, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1995 guidelines, Sexual Violence against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response (Guidelines on Sexual Violence), the majority of reported cases of sexual violence involve female targets and male perpetrators. (6) Likewise, by limiting the environment of concern to refugee camps, we do not imply that sexual violence against refugees does not take place elsewhere. It is widely accepted, for example, that sexual violence occurs during flight from and return to the country of origin, as well as in the country of asylum. (2, 5, 6) Refugee camps, however, offer an environment where some practical and commonsense measures based on injury-control models can be implemented fairly easily to reduce the risk of sexual violence for these vulnerable groups. Accordingly, although the assessment and planning tool introduced here is in pilot form and does not address all aspects of sexual or physical violence, exploitation, and discrimination among refugees, it is one step in what must be a coordinated effort to resolve this multi-faceted international problem.
In recent years, many international lawyers and scholars have noted a substantial convergence between international human rights law (“IHRL”) and international humanitarian law (“IHL”). This convergence is due in large measure to the distressing proliferation of violent internal armed conflicts in many parts of the world. Whether in Cambodia, El Salvador or Sierra Leone, these conflicts have served to highlight the chief inadequacies of IHRL and IHL and have, as a consequence, provoked discussion about how such inadequacies ought to be remedied so as to afford better protection to the millions of victims of such conflicts. Among the chief concerns in this debate is the prevailing confusion about the proper application of IHRL and IHL in the context of such conflicts, since many people continue to think that IHRL only applies in times of peace, and that only IHL applies in times of war. This confusion is compounded by the seeming absence in contemporary international law literature of any straightforward analysis of the interplay between the norms and institutions relevant to IHL and IHRL protections in the context of such conflicts.
Accordingly, this paper attempts to tackle this issue and begin to fill the gap in the legal literature by providing a modest but cogent account of the normative and institutional interplay between IHRL and IHL in the context of internal armed conflicts. The paper itself will be divided into three main sections: (i.) an analysis of the different types of conflict that are recognized under international law; (ii.) an examination of the applicable norms of IHL and IHRL in the context of internal armed conflicts; and (iii.) a brief review of the principal institutions with competency to provide redress for violations of IHL and IHRL committed in the course of such conflicts.
However, before proceeding, a few brief remarks must be made about the scope and design of the paper. First, this paper focuses exclusively on the provisions of IHL that relate to the protection of victims of internal armed conflicts, and does not examine the provisions of IHL that relate to the conduct of hostilities in such conflicts. Second, this paper deals with treaty-based sources of IHL and IHRL, and does not generally examine customary international law or jus cogens norms. Third, this paper focuses exclusively on international legal norms, and does not deal with any comparable protections under regional or national laws. Lastly, as an aid to the reader, this paper contains an appendix that sets out the principal acronyms and abbreviations used throughout the paper, together with their definitions.
The magnitude of many recent complex emergencies has compelled UNHCR to consider the issue of conflict prevention. Such emergencies pose important questions about how to protect human life and human rights in crisis situations. Human rights abuses and violent conflict are the main reasons why people flee. Grappling with these problems can draw outsiders into areas traditionally seen as internal affairs. Countries in crisis want to preserve their sovereignty. Yet sovereignty should not be a shield, hiding abuses that might lead to major movements of people. Increasingly, international organizations, national governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local leaders are working together creatively to address the abuses that can lead to refugee outflows and internal displacements.
Complex emergencies require the international community to respond quickly and efficiently with a variety of services. Experience has demonstrated that effective emergency response depends on coordination between nongovernmental organizations, governments, and international organizations. The increasing burden in recent years has prompted international organizations and states to reconsider how best to use the considerable capacity of the NGO community.
NGOs play an increasingly important role in humanitarian assistance and protection activities. In complex emergencies, national governments find it more and more difficult to provide, by themselves, the range of relief needed. Many situations present not only logistical difficulties, but political barriers to action. Nongovernmental organizations can, and do, help to fill the gap, playing a wide range of roles from early warning of human rights abuses to education and training for long-term self-sufficiency.
Norway provides an instructive example of one way to manage highly effective cooperation between government and the national NGO community. When I assumed my functions as High Commissioner, I identified emergency preparedness and response as one of the principal pillars of my office. Within this context, UNHCR and Norway entered into a new and closer relationship, through an emergency staff standby arrangement managed by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Through this arrangement, my office has been able to witness very directly the important and cooperative relationship between governments, international organizations, and NGOs.
Such creative arrangements are one of the tools that UNHCR can use to accomplish its key task of protecting people in peril. This report highlights the challenges posed by complex emergencies and suggests some ways in which the rights and well-being of vulnerable populations can be better safeguarded.