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UNHCR/ B.Ntwari/ January 2014

Displacement in the Central African Republic – By The Numbers

Every year, World Refugee Day is observed on June 20. It is an opportunity for organizations to highlight the plight of refugees across the world, and make the case for enhanced support – both in terms of providing the necessary humanitarian assistance to today’s refugees but also exhorting the international community to strengthen strategies and programs to help reduce the staggering numbers over time.

Today, we look at the displacement figures in the Central African Republic, where a civil conflict has been raging for more than a year.

- Between 557,000 and 625,000 = overall number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Central African Republic, representing approximately 12% of the population.

94,000 = number of internally displaced persons in the CAR in early 2012.

- Between 136,000 and 207,000 = number of internally displaced people in the capital, Bangui. A major decrease since December 2013, when 500,000 people were displaced in Bangui alone.

43  = number of displacement sites within Bangui

Approximately 226,000 = number of CAR refugees in Cameroon, Chad, DRC, and Congo, representing approximately 5% of the population.

- Approximately 90,000 = number of CAR refugees in Cameroon. Of the US$22.6 million UNHCR is seeking to help this population, so far just US$4.2 million has been received.

- Approximately 90,000 = number of CAR refugees in Chad (includes 14,000 arrivals since March 2013.) There are also approximately 400,000 South Sudanese refugees in Chad due to the conflict in that country – many of the half million refugees in Chad have recently arrived.

- Approximately 50,000 = number of CAR refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (includes refugees from before the conflict erupted in March 2013.) In December 2013, there were 2.6 million IDPs in the DRC – of which only about 500,000 were assisted by the UNHCR

- Approximately 16,000  = number of CAR refugees in the Republic of Congo (arrivals since March 2013.) Only about 19% of the funds requested in the Global Appeal have been released

While the Central African Republic has, for a long time, produced refugees and IDPs, the current crisis highlights a dramatic rise in displaced persons. It is worth noting, however, that both the number of overall displaced persons and the rate at which people are fleeing has been decreasing since December 2013. This is a good sign – people are able to return home in some cases, and the security situation is such that fewer people feel compelled to leave – but it is critical for the international community, and particularly donors, to continue to provide the financial support necessary to meet the needs of the displaced populations. Many of those who remain displaced are the most vulnerable – unable to return home, and with no plans to do so in the immediate future.

The Central African Republic’s displacement crisis is also marked by the fact that the vast majority of displaced persons are internally displaced, and as such do not technically fall under the mandate of the UNHCR – only about half of the internally displaced are supported by UNHCR in the CAR. Furthermore, as we reflect on the global displacement crisis on June 20, it is important to highlight the plight of those displaced who do not cross international borders. In the Central African Republic, with 12% of the population internally displaced, long-term, lasting peace will depend on creating a situation where people are able to return home and rebuild their lives.

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Episode 21: Amb. Thomas Pickering

Ambassador Thomas Pickering has had a front row seat to some of the most important foreign policy events of the last 50 years. The career foreign service officer and widely respected diplomat served as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India, among others places. I speak with Tom Pickering about the faltering Israel-Palestine peace process, his role in shaping US policy during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and an awkward phone call with President-elect George H.W. Bush, who tapped him to serve as US Ambassador to the UN during the run-up to the Gulf War.

 

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Previous episodes

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

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Top of the Morning: A Mass Atrocity in Iraq

A Mass Atrocity in Iraq….ISIS boasts that it has killed 1700 Shiites and Iraqi soldiers, and posted images online to back up this claim. Sectarian civil war is their aim. “But with their claim, the Sunni militants were reveling in an atrocity that if confirmed would be the worst yet in the conflicts that roil the region, outstripping even the poison gas attack near Damascus last year.In an atmosphere where there were already fears that the militants’ sudden advance near the capital would prompt Shiite reprisal attacks against Sunni Arab civilians, the claims by ISIS were potentially explosive. And that is exactly the militant group’s stated intent: to stoke a return to all-out sectarian warfare that would bolster its attempts to carve out a Sunni Islamist caliphate that crosses borders through the region. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1nI9QSC)

And the USA is evacuating staff from its Baghdad embassy (USA Today http://usat.ly/1nIa3W0)

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Africa

Aid agencies warned Sunday that starvation and diseases like malaria and cholera were set to intensify the crisis in South Sudan, which has been devastated by six months of conflict. (AP http://yhoo.it/1kWSUb6)

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s information minister says hundreds of rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda from South and North Kivu provinces have been disarming as part of the government’s program to improve security and stabilize the country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1kWSCB8)

Nigerian security forces said on Sunday they were searching for a British construction worker they believe was kidnapped in the central Plateau state. (VOA http://bit.ly/1izUgnC)

Three armed groups from northern Mali announced in Algiers on Sunday that they have agreed to begin talks with the Bamako government aimed at resolving long-standing disputes. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1izUNpB)

Africa needs to first rely on internal investment if it is to achieve the infrastructure developments it urgently needs, the president of Senegal said Sunday at a regional summit. (AP http://yhoo.it/1kWTcPr)

MENA

The Italian coast guard says it has rescued nearly 300 Syrian migrants from a fishing boat adrift in the Mediterranean Sea. (VOA http://bit.ly/1izU9IS)

A Kuwaiti human rights organisation on Sunday urged the Gulf state to fulfil pledges to abolish the sponsorship system for foreign labor and to end the arbitrary deportation of expatriates. (AP http://yhoo.it/1izUUS3)

Asia

Thousands of migrant workers have fled back to Cambodia, fearing the Thai military will crackdown on illegal workers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1izU7Rl)

Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission filed a case with local police accusing 17 people of breaching regulations over the construction of a building that collapsed last year, killing over 1,130 mostly garment workers. (AP http://yhoo.it/1kWSZf7)

The Americas

Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos has been re-elected as Colombian president with nearly 51% of the vote, seeing off his right-wing challenger. (BBC http://bbc.in/1kWSIIV)

Opinion/Blog

A ‘special’ perspective on food, human rights and the future of agriculture (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1vp9WBP)

 

Why are taxes on capital income lower than taxes on labour income? (Owen abroad http://bit.ly/1izUpHI)

Why your aid organisation should buy local (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1qiJiKP)

Research/Reports

The use of carbon markets to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions was dealt a blow on Sunday after two weeks of United Nations talks on designing and reforming the mechanisms ended in deadlock. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1kWTdTx)
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently criticized the international community for failing to stop widespread abuses. Navi Pillay said governments too often place more importance on politics than human rights. (VOA http://bit.ly/1izVaR2)

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credit FIFA TV

The World Cup for Social Progress

Ed note. Be sure to tune into the World Cup + Social Good, co-hosted by our friends at the United Nations Foundation this week. 

For those of us anxiously counting down until the start of the World Cup, the coming month promises a flurry of excitement showcasing some of the world’s most talented athletes. Despite political divisions, countries as disparate as Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Korea, Nigeria, Iran, and Russia will all take to the same fields in displays of skill, teamwork, and passion. Football, which has universal appeal, will bring all eyes and ears to one place, and this limited attention span bears some legitimate social messaging potential.

Even to the FIFA, who is responsible for the quadrennial event, the World Cup is not simply a football championship. Because of the game’s unifying nature, FIFA has seized the opportunity to use the World Cup as a platform to address global issues that tear us apart, from racism and poverty to gender inequality and disease.

Using the World Cup as a platform for social progress is not new. FIFA originally took a bold stance against racism in 1961 by expelling apartheid South Africa from the games, only readmitting the nation in 1991 after Nelson Mandela was released from prison. When the games were held there in 2010, Mandela noted that “[Football] is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

The seeds of racism have long been embedded in the football world, as well. Consequentially, the Buenos Aires Resolution to combat racism in football, passed by FIFA’s Congress in 2001, invited a decade-long campaign using international football superstars as advocates against racism. In the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, FIFA introduced “Say No to Racism” banners that covered the fields during pre-game formalities, while anti-discrimination advertisements filled TV spots. These efforts were repeated in 2006 and 2010. And you can be sure to see these banners in Brazil this month.

The anti-discrimination campaign flourished alongside other movements. In 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and FIFA President Sepp Blatter promoted a closer partnership between their two organizations. In 2005, FIFA created the Football for Hope initiative to further the UN Millennium Development Goals by fostering relationships between football organizations and existing development stakeholders to build community centers across the globe.

By building centers with shared spaces and a football field, young people have been encouraged to collaborate with each other and engage with existing NGOs to promote locally relevant social development on the frontiers of HIV/AIDS education, conflict resolution, gender equity, capacity-building and work training, youth leadership, and life skills training. The 2010 World Cup made the creation of 20 of these centers in Africa its priority.

While the use of football as a platform for social progress has evolved over time, the world of football has met its match: global social problems are not going away and might prove to be much tougher opponents than anticipated. But FIFA has yet another opportunity to make a case and promote its social responsibility initiatives in Brazil’s 2014 games.  After all, it’s the same qualities that make watching the World Cup so enthralling – teamwork, leadership, integrity, innovation, heart, blood, sweat, and tears – which will bring us closer to achieving these universal goals. 

 

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President of Côte d'Ivoire Addresses General Assembly

Laurent Gbagbo To Face Trial at International Criminal Court

A majority of the three judges of the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber I have issued a decision confirming the charges against former Ivoirian president Laurent Gbagbo, who will now face trial for crimes against humanity. Laurent Gbagbo, who was Côte d’Ivoire’s head of state from 2000 to 2011, is being tried for crimes committed during the 2010-2011 crisis following the hotly contested December 2010 presidential election. Prosecutors have focused on four distinct incidents that occurred between December 2010 and April 2011, where there is sufficient evidence to commit him to trial.

The decision is not only significant in terms of ensuring justice for the crimes perpetrated against the Ivoirian people by pro-Gbagbo forces in the post-election crisis, but is also a milestone in international criminal justice: it is the first time that a former head of state is facing trial at the International Criminal Court. Of course, the trial has not yet begun and Gbagbo has not been convicted, and the prosecution is not guaranteed to succeed. One of the three judges wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that there wasn’t a realistic chance of conviction based on the available evidence. Beyond the potential lack of evidence or reliable witness testimony, Gbagbo’s defense lawyer is also arguing that the real culprit in the 2010-2011 election debacle was France. “It will be a trial of Francafrique“, Gbagbo’s lawyer told AFP. Indeed, France did play a critical role in Côte d’Ivoire – and not just during the post-election crisis. French forces have been deployed in Côte d’Ivoire for years, and supported the ousting of Gbagbo. The long-term, complex relationship between France and Côte d’Ivoire will likely have a central role in the upcoming trial.

This milestone for Ivoirian reconciliation and for international justice is however mitigated by the fact that no criminal proceedings – nationally or internationally – are investigating the responsibility of pro-Ouattara forces during the post-election crisis. At the time, advocacy and human rights groups argued that both sides were responsible for their share of violence and crimes. However, with Ouattara now president of Côte d’Ivoire, there have been over 150 convictions for pro-Gbagbo forces and supporters (including nine in military court), and yet no arrests or charges laid against any pro-Ouattara forces. If sustainable peace is to prevail in Côte d’Ivoire, justice cannot be one-sided. As noted by Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, “If Côte d’Ivoire’s history is any guide, leaving one side of the conflict largely untouched by justice risks sowing the seeds for future conflict.”

 

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Why Angelina Jolie is Hosting a Global Summit on Sexual Violence in Conflict

For the past week, delegates and representatives from 113 governments and various civil society organizations have met in London to discuss the importance of ending sexual violence against women, particularly in conflict. Recent events – including the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the rebel Boko Haram, recent rapes caught on camera in Tahrir Square in Egypt, and the increase of sex trafficking for Syrian refugees – highlight the need to take on this challenge but also why it is so difficult to combat.

Co-chaired by British Foreign Secretary William Hague and special envoy for the UN High Commission of Refugees Angelina Jolie, the conference has highlighted the experiences of women and girls in conflicts as well as their lasting impact. These experiences have gained new prominence in the 1990s with the violent conflicts in the Balkans and Central Africa but sadly, the cycle of violence continues with new conflicts around the world. This is why much of the conference has focused on the issue of accountability, and how such acts can be deterred in the future rather than tolerated.

Delegates have paid tribute to the work various international tribunals have done in prosecuting sexual violence and called for better cooperation in bringing perpetrators to justice. However some groups are focusing on more practical concerns in bridging the gap between theory and reality. In a side event at the conference, the US-based group Physicians for Human Rights presented one possible option in boosting accountability with a mobile app that would aid health professionals in documenting the crimes when they occur for use by court officials later. Based on traditional medical forms but utilizing mobile and cloud technology, the organization started testing the app this year in the Eastern DRC and hopes to expand its use in the future. If successful, such apps may be able to combat the culture of impunity that surrounds such crimes, but much more is needed to fully meet the needs of victims.

Over the past two decades, new programs dedicated towards first responders mean that health professionals are now generally better prepared to provide treatment to victims but this only helps in the immediate aftermath; long term mental health care to help victims cope with the trauma is still elusive in most conflict zones. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women, also pointed out the importance of economic empowerment for women as a means to combat sexual violence, both in conflict and in ordinary life. When done properly, compensation for victims can help women leave abusive relationships and battle the stigma that often follows sexual assault victims. It also addresses the more practical needs of victims rather than the higher political concerns that typically define prosecutions. All of these elements are needed to build a new culture that treats sexual violence as seriously as other forms of abuse in armed conflict.

Sexual violence in conflict is not new; for as long as there has been war, there has also been those willing to sexually exploit women and children. However the purpose of the conference and the recent UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence is to reinforce the notion that such violence and exploitation is not an inevitable part of war. Many question how much the conference will actually accomplish, but its high profile and global participation suggests that the world may finally be ready to start addressing sexual violence in conflict as the war crime it is. It may only be a first step, but it is one that is long overdue.

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