UN expert urges no let-up in attention to IDPs

GENEVA -- The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, has urged the Government of the Philippines to follow-through with its commitments and devote much needed attention and resources to internally displaced persons “until durable solutions are attained and their futures are secured.”

Beyani’s call came at the end of his official 10-day visit to the Philippines, where he assessed the impact of all forms of internal displacement, including those caused by disasters, armed conflict, and development projects on the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

The UN expert praised the Government for its responses to the massive internal displacement caused by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). However, he expressed concern that “attention and resources appear to be waning before durable solutions are achieved and some IDPs remain in dire situations.”

He travelled to Tacloban in the Visayas which had been affected by Yolanda, which made landfall in November 2013, killing some 6,300 in the Philippines and displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed significant progress in providing transitional and permanent homes to those affected and restoring livelihood opportunities, as well as policies such as "Build-Back-Better" aimed at mitigating against the effects of future disasters.

Nevertheless, the expert expressed surprise that despite huge resources spent or earmarked for infrastructure projects, for many displaced communities basic service provision, including water, sanitation and electricity are lacking almost two years after Yolanda.

Some families “seem to have become stuck in substandard ‘bunkhouse’ accommodation or fallen entirely through the protection net,” he commented.

Beyani urged the government to rapidly take concrete steps to resolve problems affecting IDPs, including to adopt what would be a landmark law on the rights of internally displaced persons following more than a decade of deliberation.

“An ‘almost law’ is as good as no law at all,” the UN expert stated. “For a country prone to disasters and the displacement effects of long-standing conflicts it is essential to enshrine the rights and protection of IDPs into law. Not to do so after a decade of debate sends a wrong signal about the Government’s commitment to ensuring respect for their rights and withholds essential legal protection from IDPs.”

Beyani visited other regions of the country affected by displacement caused by the long-standing conflicts with non-State armed groups in various regions of Mindanao. He urged intensified efforts to achieve inclusive and lasting peace as an essential means of ending the conflicts which have displaced millions over the last four decades.

“Conflict, militarization and displacement have become the common pattern in some localities and responses to conflict driven displacement crisis need to be more effective in some areas where they have gone from poor to almost non-existent,” Beyani said.

“Armed conflict or intrusive development projects not only displace indigenous peoples and subject them to conditions that may bring about their destruction as peoples, they also destroy their homes and livelihoods,” noted the rights expert, who also visited Tampakan, where a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine will potentially displace over 5000 people, the majority of whom are indigenous peoples.

“They have an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise lost, perhaps forever,” he stressed. “Indigenous peoples struggle to survive away from their ancestral lands and require special protection including through the full implementation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.”

The Special Rapporteur thanked the Government for its cooperation with his mandate and is committed to continuing his constructive engagement with national authorities. He will produce a full report and recommendations based on his visit to be presented to the Government of the Philippines and the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. (HRW)


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