IRRI Newsletter: In Case You Missed It (Jul-Dec 2016)
Published: 30 Dec 2016
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this “quarterly” newsletter in fact covers six month of our activities so our apologies for it being a little longer than usual.
In this update you can find information on our activities re protecting rights in exile, the causes and resolution ton conflict including our work on Gambia, Burundi, Sudan, South Sudan, DRC, citizenship rights
Despite the commitments made during the UN meeting on migration and the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, the last six months of 2016 saw the continuation of negative rhetoric in Europe with regards to respecting refugees’ rights – and then of course the year ended with the election of Donald J Trump in the US. All of this means that our work is more important than ever and we continue to appreciate your support.
Over the coming months, we will be undertaking some exciting new research on migration issues in the Horn of Africa, looking at if and how the marginalisation of refugee populations can make them more or less susceptible to extremism. We will be publishing the third report as part of our study on civilian perspectives on peacekeeping focusing on AMISOM in Somalia. And of course we will be doubling our efforts to keep advocating for the rights of refugees to be respected.
Rights in Exile
Uganda is still the “place to be a refugee” if all the external discourse is to be believed. This has been of concern to IRRI, as we believe there is a risk of creating a myth of the “perfect” refugee hosting situation that may gloss over the real obstacles and challenges the host and refugee communities in Uganda are dealing with on a daily basis – being top of the class does not automatically make you an “A” grade, if the rest of the class is failing… And whilst IRRI recognises the generosity of Uganda in terms of taking in refugees, the rapid influx of refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan in the last six months, has pushed Uganda’s capacity to the limit. With this in mind, IRRI has worked hard to speak with the innumerable researchers and journalists who have, over the preceding six months, come to study this refugee “success story” and we are pleased to see a more nuanced and accurate approach being taken see for example in the UK’s Guardian newspaper and Thomson Reuters.
IRRI has been working on these issues for many years and some of this work has been brought together in a new book entitled Refugees, Conflict and the Search for Belonging and published by Palgrave and available for purchase here. We launched the book at an event at Chatham House, London and also held an event at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University. Also, with the generous support of the Harry F. Guggenheim foundation, we hosted an “experts” meeting entitled “After the UN Summit Addressing Large movements of Refugees and Migrants: What next?” to identify the possible next steps and solutions for the future.
We continued to feed our expertise into policy makers – for example meeting UNHCR on the Senegalese asylum process and the living conditions of asylum seekers, meeting with EU representatives in Uganda, meeting with UK government officials including with Baroness Sheehan, Shadow Minister for International Development. We continued to raise the profile of issues of concern to us including, a blog on the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab camp, the issue of their “voluntary” returns after visiting the camp, and spoke with over 30 refugees and civil society organisations (CSOs) operating there.
We also contributed to the wider work undertaken by some of our civil society colleagues, including, attending an “experts” meeting on what can be done to promote, support and facilitate the solution process in the early stages of displacement, which resulted in the publication: “What can be done to promote, support and facilitate solution process in the early stages of displacement?”. We took part in a two day workshop, “Access to justice for migrants: The situation of asylum seekers and refugees in Senegal”, presented at an event hosted by DefendDefenders, where challenges faced by Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) as refugees were scrutinised, and attended an “experts” meeting, hosted by KAS Uganda on harmonising the refugee policy in the EAC. We also contributed information about Uganda that resulted in the publication, Forced Migration in the OIC Member Countries: Policy Framework Adopted by Host Countries, and we presented on the nexus between statelessness and refugees at the launch of a toolkit on preventing statelessness for Syrian refugees, at the London School of Economics in the UK.
The huge increase in the numbers of people on the move, needing support, etc. has meant that our newsletter – aimed at xxxxx has become increasingly important. Here are the July September October November and December editions of the RiE newsletter. If you do not currently receive this newsletter you can subscribe here.
Causes and resolution of displacement
Under this stream of work, we continued to highlight situations in the Great Lakes region that we had reason to believe, were situations that if left unattended by the international community, have the capacity to deteriorate resulting in new or increased numbers of displaced persons.
Since 2012, IRRI has been one of the few NGOs that has been consistently highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation in Gambia – which held elections at the end of 2016. Anyone who has followed the state of affairs would have been unsurprised by the election results that saw the incumbent Yahya Jammeh loose to his opponent Adama Barrow. More surprising was Jammeh’s apparent concession, only for his U-turn a few weeks later. ECOWAS’ determination to see democracy take its course, no doubt helped to avoid what could have become a protracted crisis – much like the one that is ongoing in Burundi. In December, we launched our latest report, I Know the Consequences of War: Understanding the dynamics of displacement in Burundi looking at why the number of displaced by the crisis was so rapid and significant. We also attended UK parliament’s International Development Committee’s inquiry on Burundi and had a piece published in Refugees Deeply: Burundi’s Refugee Crisis Propelled by Injustice and Broken Promises
We also worked with partners to help establish a coalition of regional, national and international actors to try and raise the worsening situation in the DRC – which is itself embroiled in a political crisis, relating to the expiry of the Presidential term and the necessity to hold elections. We pushed for sanctions to be placed on those individuals
Our work on Sudan continued at a pace – we increased our collaboration with UK based and regional CSOs to increase the impact of our joint advocacy, wrote a blog on Bashir and the International Criminal Court (ICC) for International Justice Day (17 July), wrote a paper on the deterrent effect of the ICC in Sudan, “The Limits of a Lonely Court,” published in book by the International Nuremburg Principles Academy, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Deterrent Effect of International Criminal Tribunals, and published a related blog.
The conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Niles states continued though the rate of human rights abuses committed against the civilian population were reduced due to a ceasefire imposed in June at the start of the rainy season and which is thankfully still ongoing. We published the April, May, and June human rights monitoring reports, produced a document around the five year anniversary of the start of the conflict in Southern Kordofan summarising the violations against civilians over that period. We published a five year “anniversary” overview of the conflict in SK/BN and also prepared briefing on the impact of the conflict in Southern Kordofan on children, and published our report A Crisis Normalised on the conflict dynamics in Blue Nile state on the five year anniversary of the start of the conflict.
Our advocacy in the UK included a submission to the UK Parliament’s Sudans All Party Parliamentary Group’s inquiry on the conflict situation in Sudan, meeting with the new UK Special Advisor on Sudan and South Sudan, and ensuring the conflict in the Two Areas has been increasingly raised in the UK House of Commons and House of Lords – including seven spoken references and eight written answers.
We also wrote an open letter regarding the human rights situation in Sudan in advance of the 33rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva – which we attended in person, meeting with delegations including the US, UK, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Germany as well as a number of others. During the session, we organised and chaired a well-attended side event focusing on Sudan’s conflict areas, and we also met with the UN’s Independent Expert on Sudan.
Following on from our work on UNMISS, we have increased our advocacy on South Sudan more generally, which included pushing for the creation of the Hybrid Court and signing onto a letter and briefing note to UK Parliamentarians and government around the five year anniversary of the start of the conflict. We also met with the new UK Special Envoy on South Sudan and increased our advocacy collaboration with CSOs working on South Sudan more generally, including engaging in joint advocacy around the expansion of UNMISS in response to the July 2016 violence and actively participating in the #HaltArms campaign, pushing for an arms embargo and for the deployment of the proposed Regional Protection Force (RPF). We also published a blog trying to understand the “cross border” raid from South Sudan on the Gambella region of Ethiopia.
We met with UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) representatives on peacekeeping to disseminate the findings from our reports on UNMISS and UNAMID and attended a meeting co-hosted by UK government’s FCO and Ministry of Defence in advance of the UK-led Ministerial on peacekeeping held in September, to ensure our report findings were included. We were pleased to note that the Ministerial Communiqué reflected a number of our recommendations. We met with UN missions on UNMISS in response to July crisis and held discussions around UNMISS expansion (with the Rwandan and New Zealand missions and DPKO). We also contributed to two civil society papers to the UN re UNMISS’ response to July crisis and a private note to Security Council members. Many of our points including the need to ensure that the new expansion force was fully integrated into the current UNMISS command structure were subsequently taken up in the resolution. However, other points, such as how to ensure deployment of high quality troops, remain to be addressed. We also attended meeting on protection of civilians and commented on draft ICRC manual on the topic.
We also continued as Steering Committee members of Uganda’s civil society forum of the ICGLR and as members of the Uganda National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UNCP-GMA) and of the International Coalition on the Responsibility to Protect – utilising the various platforms and opportunities to increase our advocacy reach and bring new voices to the fore. We have also continued working with the ICC’ Victims’ Rights Working Group that produced a paper for the ASP.
As part of the Citizenship in Africa Inititiave (CRAI) we have maintained the new website, sending regular updates to the subscriber. We also published a statement on the passing of Adam Hussein Adam, xxxxx and contributed a chapter in the book, Solving Statelessness: “Ensuring that today’s refugees are not tomorrow’s stateless persons: Solutions in a refugee context.”