What's In Blue

Arria-Formula Meeting on the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons

Tomorrow afternoon (30 May) Chile and Australia are cohosting an Arria-formula meeting on the challenges of protecting internally displaced persons (IDPs) and what role the Security Council can play in this respect.

Ambassador Cristián Barros (Chile) is likely to make introductory remarks, with concluding remarks made by Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia). Presentations are anticipated from: Alfredo Zamudio, Director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre/Norwegian Refugee Council; Costantinos Berhutesfa, Trustee of Africa Humanitarian Action; Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Policy Branch; and Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs. Following the presentations by these panelists, Council members will be invited to make statements, along with representatives from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Women’s Refugee Commission, respectively. The session is also expected to be interactive, with time allotted for the panelists to respond to questions or comments arising during member state interventions. A small number of non-Council members are also expected to make brief statements depending on time availability.

Chile and Australia have circulated a concept note in preparation for the meeting that states that massive “displacement of civilians is a central feature of contemporary conflict.” It notes that displacement is often the byproduct of violence and human rights abuses, and that civilians may be deliberately targeted by parties to a conflict for military gain, for access to land and resources, or because of their identity. The concept note also cites statistics that capture the enormity of the challenge, as there were approximately 33.3 million IDPs worldwide by the end of 2013, with roughly 8.2 million displaced just last year. It also outlines many of the abuses IDPs are subjected to by virtue of their vulnerability, including forced recruitment, assault, sexual violence, torture, and loss of livelihoods, among other things.

It seems that tomorrow’s meeting is envisioned by the co-sponsors as a way of exploring the Council’s role in addressing the needs of IDPs as part of its broader efforts to protect civilians. While in recent years the Council has been paying more attention to the protection of IDPs in its resolutions, as the concept note recognises, “efforts [by the Council] to address internal displacement in many of its resolutions have not always been made consistently, comprehensively or effectively.” The informal format of the meeting is intended to help generate ideas on how the Council can more effectively handle IDP crises and integrate IDP-related issues more consistently into the design of mandates and the oversight of peacekeeping operations and political missions. Integrating the issue of IDP protection into the Council’s work more effectively is particularly relevant at the current time, as a dramatic rise in IDPs—with all of the attendant security and humanitarian consequences—has recently been witnessed in several country-specific cases on the Council’s agenda, including the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur) and Syria.

In 2010 and 2011, there were only three Arria-formula meetings. Since then, there has been a resurgence of this format, with tomorrow’s meeting being the 21st Arria-formula meeting held by Council members since 7 February 2012. The apparent revival of this format may have prompted Russia to submit a draft note by the President of the Council on Arria-formula meetings. The note, which is currently being discussed by the Working Group on Documentation and other Procedural Questions, apparently offers guidelines on the purposes of and procedures for Arria-formula meetings.

Tomorrow’s meeting follows a recent trend of Arria-formula meetings on human rights/humanitarian issues, which have been the explicit focus of ten of the last eleven Arria-formula meetings (including tomorrow’s) dating back to May 2013.

Tomorrow’s discussion also marks the first time that Chile is hosting or co-hosting an Arria-formula during its current Council tenure, which began on 1 January, and the fourth time for Australia, which is in the second year of its Council term.

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