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.
Globalization, understood by critics to result in the homogenization of difference through gradual economic (and thus political) assimilation, is neither as ubiquitous nor as omnipotent as those who decry it believe. Indeed, as if countering one generalization with another somehow resolved the issue, globalization is often declared as one of, if not the greatest threat to cultural diversity. There is no doubt a grain of truth in this, as is often the case with such generalizations. Perhaps the most flagrant error with so sweeping a claim, however, is its overestimation of the actual geographical reach of current patterns of globalization. In Africa alone, certain internecine conflicts have effectively sealed off their victims and perpetrators from all outside influence, globalization included. A second overestimation made by the above claim concerns the capacity of globalization and assimilation to extinguish cultural difference. Once again, internecine conflict is a far more efficient leveler of difference than any influence from without, be it a colonial presence or northern pressures to ‘democratize’, to open markets, to conform to Human Rights accords, etc. Such conflict foments its own type of leveling by violently reducing different forms and expressions of cultural life to the same base and dehumanizing level whereby survival alone becomes a daily risk, a daily struggle.
The critique of conventional relief strategies in complex political emergencies well developed (Duffield, 1994; Macrae & Zwi, 1994). This critique, however, has not been accompanied by an analysis of the effectiveness of development aid on conflict management and reduction. Having participated over the past 18 months in a number of reviews, evaluations and studies for UN agencies and NGOs in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and Uganda, for me, the need for this is clear. What I want to do in this paper is to dissect what Joanna Macrae (1988) has called the ‘developmentalist attack’ on humanitarian principles by looking at developmental approaches to humanitarian relief which have gained currency in aid policy and in aid practice. The paper seeks to highlight two things:
- the shortcomings in applying developmental relief models and strategies in complex political emergencies;
- and the negative impact that such developmental approaches to relief can have on the rights, welfare and livelihoods of populations in distress.
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