Council holds interactive dialogue with Representative on internally displaced persons (IDPs)
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:49



On 8 and 9 March, the Representative of the Secretary General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Mr Walter Kälin, presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council (the Council). It was Mr Kälin’s final report to the Council as his second term as Special Representative ends in 2010. It focused on the key achievements of the Representative since assuming the mandate in 2004 (including progress on the issue of durable solutions and in strengthening the normative framework on IDP issues), as well as on the major challenges that remain with regard to the human rights of internally displaced persons (including issues of protracted displacement and the increase in internal displacement due to natural disasters, development projects and climate change). The following interactive dialogue was fairly constructive, with only the Russian Federation expressing criticism against the Representative's work on Georgia.


Described by the Representative as ‘the heart of the mandate’, the report also gave an overview of situations in countries visited by Mr Kälin over the course of his mandate, as well as specific updates on the his recent country missions to Serbia and Montenegro, Somalia, and to Georgia, particularly the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.


The Representative received almost universal praise from States for his ‘professionalism’ and ‘integrity’ as a mandate holder, as well as for his achievements on IDP issues since 2004. Several States complimented the role of the Representative in strengthening the normative framework and and building international consensus on IDP issues, including in relation to the promotion of the Guiding Principles (Egypt, Armenia, Austria), and the adoption of the Kampala Convention (Brazil, Austria, Azerbaijan, Egypt). The EU requested further information from the Representative regarding the status of the Guiding Principles ‘emerging as customary law’, as stated in Mr Kälin’s report. The Representative responded that two States have now expressly acknowledged the character of the Guiding Principles as customary law, and that this could represent the beginning of a process towards the creation of customary law on this issue.




Many States (Egypt, Armenia, Austria, Republic of Korea, US and EU) commended the Representative for his work in mainstreaming the IDP agenda across United Nations agencies. Egypt, Norway and the EU inquired more specifically as to the significance of this collaborative approach and the participation of the Representative UN Inter-agency Standing Committee in this mainstreaming process. Responding also to the US, the EU and Cyprus on the issue of the future of the mandate, Mr Kälin emphasised the critical importance of the participation of the mandate in the 'Standing Committee', to which the Representative is a 'Standing Invitee', in contributing to many of the achievements of the mandate. He further pointed out that the expected change in the title from ‘Representative of the Secretary-General’ to ‘Special Rapporteur’ as it has been the case for other mandates, for his successor could limit the effectiveness of the mandate. Accordingly, he called upon the Council to be ‘creative’ and to find ways to ensure that the mandate is not weakened.


A central focus of the Representative’s report related to the definition of IDPs and the importance of extending the definition, and the scope of the Representative’s mandate, beyond the context of conflict situations to include persons displaced by climate change and natural disasters, as well as urban IDPs. Several States, including the US, Philippines, China, Egypt, Switzerland and Azerbaijan expressed their support for such an extended focus of the IDP mandate and the need to create further awareness on these issues. The Philippines made particular reference to Small Island States and asked about the responsibility of States to assist vulnerable communities in adapting to climate change. In his replies, the Representative highlighted his work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration to incorporate displacement into work on adaptation to climate change the new climate change.


The Russian Federation, by contrast, expressed its regret for the perceived ‘one-sided’, ‘politicised’ and ‘provocative’ approach of the Representative’s report, particularly with reference to Mr Kälin’s mission to Georgia. The Russian Federation argued that South Ossetia, and not Georgia, was the proper subject of the Representative’s country visit.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:10
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