ACT calls on High-level Panel on Internal Displacement to ensure inclusive consultations

ACT Alliance has responded to the call for submissions issued by the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Internal Displacement by sharing various lessons from its work with internally displaced people (IDPs) in a letter on Friday. In it, ACT identifies the unique role of churches and faith actors in overcoming some of the challenges faced by IDPs, particularly when it comes to including them in policy discussions at all levels.

In order to address these limitations, and to ensure that age, gender and diversity principles will be honoured during the course of the Panel’s work, ACT puts particular emphasis on the need for an inclusive regional consultation process, which its members have pledged to support in the coming months. The key issues identified by ACT Alliance include:

Acknowledging internal displacement:

ACT criticises the long-standing disavowal of internal displacement by certain governments which has impeded humanitarian response and the development of solutions. “In some cases, this is due to the government’s own involvement in triggering such displacement – whether through armed conflict or through promoting public policies that result in displacement,” reads the letter.

“Concepts of welcoming the stranger, caring for the least of these, and loving our neighbour are deeply seated in the Christian tradition,” reads the letter. ACT suggests that the rich resource of moral language of churches and faith actors, which has the potential to promote understanding and change social behavior (as was achieved during the Ebola outbreak), can be used to promote the need to care for IDPs.

Incentivising compliance with human rights norms:

ACT notes that despite the compendium of international human rights laws detailing states’ obligations to human rights, little progress has been made in achieving compliance.

In light of this, “new coalitions of member states and other stakeholders concerned about internal displacement should be forged and reinforced, and various avenues should be pursued to leverage their influence.” As churches and faith actors have a long history of working closely with UN human rights mechanisms, as well as with monitoring intergovernmental processes, ACT encourages the HLP to consider churches and faith actors as useful resources in encouraging state compliance. 

Emphasising the need for a whole of society approach, as outlined in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and Global Compact on Refugees (GCR):

While the issue of internal displacement was side-stepped in the GCM and GCR, ACT recognises that many of the principles proposed in the Compacts are equally applicable to IDPs.

Therefore, ACT calls for a Whole of Society Approach to addressing internal displacement to ensure an inclusive process in policy development, implementation and follow up. ACT also notes the importance of including churches and faith actors in mobilising communities to care for the most vulnerable, “the combined engagement of mayors and local leaders, including clergy, by national leadership on issues related to IDPs can garner practical localised solutions to displacement.”

Considering the interconnectedness of migration & asylum systems and internal displacement:

The letter also addresses the potential effects of increasingly restrictive asylum and migration systems on internal displacement and notes the impact that COVID-19 could have in the escalation of refoulement, premature returns and denial of access to territory. “We are concerned that this will inevitably exacerbate the scale and complexity of internal displacement, particularly at a time when the pandemic is causing stigmatisation against those infected in many countries, forcing them to abandon their habitual places of residence,” reads the letter.

ACT notes the active role of churches and faith actors in safeguarding these standards and calls on states to fulfil their human rights obligations and to proactively implement the commitments they made under the two Global Compacts.

The full text of the letter is available here.

In addition to the above, ACT Alliance supports the following contributions made to the HLP: