Magazine article Forced Migration Review

The 'Tool Box' at States' Disposal to Prevent Displacement: A Swiss Perspective

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

The 'Tool Box' at States' Disposal to Prevent Displacement: A Swiss Perspective

Article excerpt

A harmful action that is looming and has not yet taken place is difficult for third-party states to denounce or counter. Nevertheless, a whole range of measures and methodologies is at their disposal enabling them to contribute to the prevention of forced displacement.

Since internal displacement takes place within the boundaries of a state, its prevention and the protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are first and foremost a duty of the concerned state. However, other states not confronted with displacement on their own territory, such as Switzerland, have a moral and legal obligation to contribute to ensuring respect for human rights and humanitarian law conventions they ratified. This is a sensitive and often highly politicised issue as the protection of IDPs is essentially a national responsibility; it is closely linked to the sovereignty of the concerned states, which may consider other states' actions on forced displacement to be undue interference.

This challenge is even more pressing in the case of the prevention of forced displacement. In choosing the appropriate instruments, it is useful for third-party states to distinguish between two types of interventions: those aiming at preventing first-time forced displacement and those addressing the prevention of the repetition of forced displacement. In both cases, however, key elements such as justice, security and development issues need to be addressed. The following are a selection of 'tools' used by Switzerland to contribute to the prevention of both types of displacement.

Promoting existing instruments and addressing legal gaps

Existing instruments such as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the Great Lakes Protocol and the Kampala Convention are key instruments for the prevention of forced displacement. However, they are only useful in so far as they are widely recognised and applied, for example through translation into national law. The support of states can in this context be of great value and usually takes two forms: firstly, states can indirectly contribute to the promotion and dissemination of these instruments by supporting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs. This support can be either financial or through advocacy around threats of displacement. If the latter, the interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur in the framework of the General Assembly of the UN in New York or the Human Rights Council in Geneva are valuable settings to point out impending threats of displacement.

Secondly, states can respond directly in specific cases. In 2011, for example, Switzerland started a project in Nigeria in collaboration with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre to contribute to the ratification and implementation of the Kampala Convention. As a result of the project a coordination platform for civil society actors working on displacement issues was created. Currently, in late 2012, the third phase of the project implementing a 'training of trainers' on IDP issues and more specifically on the Kampala Convention is being carried out.

States might also address legal gaps regarding the prevention of displacement and the implementation of protection. Switzerland is currently working with Norway and other interested states on the compilation of measures regarding the prevention of and the response to cross-border displacement in the context of natural disasters. This resulted in the launch in October 2012 in Geneva of the 'Nansen Initiative', which specifically addresses the category of persons who are covered neither by the Refugee Convention nor the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and thus left without protection. Even though human rights law applies to these specific cases, critical issues such as admission, temporary or permanent stay and basic rights are not covered.1

Promoting compliance with international law in armed conflicts

For the prevention of conflict-related displacement, the main tool at the disposal of third-party states is the promotion of compliance with international law. …

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