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15 November 2013

Humanitarian action, constitutional inclusion, development and peacebuilding measures are the four cornerstones of durable solutions for internally-displaced persons and returnees.  “Development and peace can hardly be achieved when thousands of South Sudanese remain uprooted,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani, said at the end of his visit to South Sudan from 6 to 15 November 2013.

While Jonglei State hosts large numbers of internally-displaced persons, it is a phenomenon that affects the country as a whole and therefore must be dealt with as a matter of national responsibility.  “The Government at the national and local levels has the primary responsibility to assist and protect all internally-displaced persons in an equal manner,” Beyani said. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations also play a significant role in protecting internally-displaced persons.

Displacement is caused by armed hostilities and inter-communal violence, insecurity, human rights violations as well as natural disasters. Instances of evictions have also resulted in internal displacement. “Many IDPs have been affected by several causes and suffered multiple displacements,” Beyani explained, highlighting concerns about the vulnerabilities and decreasing coping capacity of the displaced populations. “Due to these complexities and the lack of regular humanitarian access to areas affected by internal displacement, its magnitude remains unclear,” he noted. Public figures on internal displacement therefore reflect minimums, while the real magnitude of the phenomenon in South Sudan is allegedly much higher, revealing the need for improved data collection.

“Civilians, including internally-displaced persons, must be spared from violence and abuse by all parties,” Beyani strongly urged.  The protection of the civilian population is first and foremost a responsibility of the Government, that must, however, be exercised with care to not do harm to the population.  Capacities therefore must be further strengthened and the response to internally-displaced persons needs to be demilitarized.  The Special Rapporteur also raised concerns about the increasingly violent nature of cattle raiding.  The proliferation and excessive use of arms and weaponry are key factors in this upsurge in violence. “Internally-displaced persons also suffer from arbitrary displacement, discrimination and harassment, destruction of property, loss of livestock and also simple oversight and neglect,” Beyani said.  Many internally-displaced persons are unable or fearful to access basic services and humanitarian assistance.

The dimensions and complexities of internal displacement require a strategic response to overcome the divide between humanitarian and development action and create a common peace dividend.  “A common policy on internal displacement that builds on relevant international standards could provide the common basis for such a strategic response,” Beyani strongly recommended. 

The Special Rapporteur also addressed the situation of those returning from Sudan.  “If returnees are unable to return to their homes or integrate in a place of their choice within South Sudan, they lack a durable solution just as internally-displaced persons do.” He also called upon the Government to take all measures possible to avoid statelessness. The lack of documentation of internally-displaced persons and returning South Sudanese needs to be addressed prior to any national census or elections, to ensure their right to participation.

During his visit, the Special Rapporteur met with representatives of the Government of South Sudan in Juba, Bor and Pibor; the United Nations Mission in South Sudan; United Nations humanitarian agencies; non-governmental organizations as well as donors. He is deeply grateful to the internally-displaced persons and returnees who openly shared their insights with him. The Special Rapporteur extends his appreciation to the Government for receiving him and his thanks to UNHCR and UNMISS who have kindly facilitated and supported this mission.

Chaloka Beyani, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity

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