Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons in South Asia


A Report on Training Workshops, Translations of the UN Guiding Principles and Advocacy Meetings in South Asia (2004-2005)





In the last one-decade the numbers of internally displaced persons (IDP) are on the increase in South Asia just as in many other parts of the world. Discrimination against minorities, violence, war, ethnic hatred, state repression, demands for self-determination, natural and man made disasters such as famines and floods, ill-conceived development projects such as highways and dams – all have contributed massively to internal displacement. Often the victims of forced displacement are unable to cross borders due to severe lack of resources and are forced to live within a regime that had created occasions for their displacement in the first place.


The societies and the polities of South Asia have shown weak capacity to cope with the severe humanitarian crises and the disasters of unprecedented magnitude in form of major occurrences of forced displacements. Internal displacement has become one of the chief concerns of the administrators, policy-making circles, and humanitarian agencies. It is the integral today to studies of forced displacement in South Asia, particularly in the context of the experiences of Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal.


An interesting aspect in the study of IDPs in South Asia (2002-2003) conducted by the CRG with the help of the Brookings Institution, which has been published as a monograph by Sage in 2005 portrays that there are no legal or constitutional mechanisms in any country in South Asia for the IDPs in particular, no inventory of best practices. In fact South Asian states have organized rehabilitation and care on an ad hoc basis for the IDPs in the same manner as they have dealt with refugees.  Yet the reality is that the IDPs are more vulnerable than the refugees, particularly because they have to remain within a system that is responsible for their displacement, and there is no definite international protection mechanism for them.


In the last decade the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement have created occasion for rethinking on the situation of IDPs worldwide.  Individually South Asia scholars, jurists, civil liberties and human rights activists are in the forefront of such rethinking. The more important point is that the Guiding Principles have become the common benchmark for protection and care of the IDPs in a region where States are at conflict with each other and hence do not want to learn from each other’s best practices; also there is no regional mechanism on this critical issue of human rights and humanitarianism.


Keeping this in mind the CRG has organized a South Asian advocacy campaign on the Guiding Principles and on how coupled with other legal and non-formal measure it can be used to serve the interest of the victim communities.  The CRG has been the founder of the only regular journal on forced migration in South Asia, Refugee Watch. This journal through the last five years has built up a substantial body of writings, case studies, analyses, interviews, and documents on IDPs, that became a significant study material for such a training program. CRG has completed in collaboration with the Brookings Institution a massive study of the patterns of internal displacement in South Asia (2003) based on country analyses of Pakistan, India, Burma, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Such a study has been possible because of strong relations that CRG has with relevant functionaries in humanitarian and human rights organizations, academics, human rights activists, and legal scholars in these countries. The aim of the study has been to find out how the South Asian situation fares in the mirror of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The study has also included an over all report on conditions of women who have been victims of internal displacement in this region.  This study has made it possible for CRG to form a network of scholar activists who supported this South Asian advocacy and training programme on the Guiding Principles.


The programme commenced with a preparatory meeting in Kathmandu in July 2004.


First Preparatory Meeting in Kathmandu


Date: 17 July 2004


The first preparatory meeting for what was entitled the IDP Training and Advocacy Programme on UN Guiding Principles was organized CRG in Kathmandu on 17 July, 2004.  In that meeting CRG invited representatives from all partner organisations from five different countries in South Asia.  The partner organisations included Ain O Salish Kendro ( Bangladesh),  Nepal Institue of Peace (Nepal), Aurat Foundation (Pakistan), National Institute of Peace (Sri Lanka) and CENISEAS (Guwahati, India). The meeting consisted of the following experts from the region:

Ranabir Samaddar, Pradip Kumar Bose, Paula Banerjee, Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Subir Bhaumik, Samir Kumar Das, Iftaque Ahmed Ronnie, Atta ur-Rahman Shaikh, Meghna Guhathakurta, Pradip Phanjoubam, Sanjib Baruah, Bandana Shreshtha, Pradeep Wagle, Som Prasad Niroula, Hari Sharma and Jagat Acharya..  Proceedings of the meeting devolved mostly on the twin tasks of preparing campaign and advocacy booklets and organizing workshops by CRG’s South Asian partners.  


In the preparatory meeting an advocacy strategy was formed.  It was decided that every country should prepare an advocacy booklet that should contain translations of the UN Guiding Principles and a common introduction by the CRG.  The booklet should contain references to community practices and modes of hospitality towards the IDPs in South Asia besides the discussion on state practices in the perspective of the Guiding Principles. The target audience of the booklets would comprise the policy makers, legislators, activists and most importantly, the victims themselves. The booklet should be of 30-40 pages of which the first approximately 10-page common introductory note will be prepared by CRG.  Once the booklet is prepared it was to be followed by advocacy meeting in each country. The advocacy meeting, it was hoped will include representations from the victim communities, practitioners from the legal community and policy makers.


On the basis of the discussion in the preparatory meeting CRG began the work with the partner organisations.  As a first step a common introduction for the advocacy booklets were prepared by the editorial team composed of Paula Banerjee, Samir Das, Meghna Guhathakurta and Ranabir Samaddar.  This was sent to all partners.  The introduction dealt with a few questions that can help the victim community and people involved in rehabilitation and care.  These were:


  • What Types of Displacement are Prohibited by the Guiding Principles?
  • What Rights do Persons have once Displaced?
  • What Rights and Obligations do Humanitarian Organizations Have?
  • What Help Should Displaced Persons Expect with Return, Reintegration and Resettlement?
  • Are their any special provisions for women?
  • Are the Guiding Principles legally binding?
  • Whose responsibility is it anyway?
  • What is the way ahead?


Advocacy Meetings and Workshops


Till date advocacy meetings and workshops in five countries have been completed.  These include Bangladesh, India (Northeast), Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  The following are the reports of country workshops:




Date: 25 November 2004


The Workshop on the Advocacy Booklet on the Guiding Principles on IDPs in Bangladesh was jointly organized by the Calcutta Research Group  and Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). It was held on November 25, 2004 at Research Institute of Bangladesh (RIB) conference room, Dhaka.  The workshop was chaired by Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). Dr. Paula Banerjee represented the MCRG. Among the participants were scholars, lawyers, activists and victims of displacement.


The workshop began with some introductory remarks from DR. Shamsul Bari, Chairman, RIB and former official at UNHCR. Dr. Paula Banerjee introduced the project in South Asia under the collaboration of the Brookings Institution. The draft booklet, which was translated into Bangla along with the UN Guiding Principles on IDP was then presented, in brief, by Meghna Guhathakurta and Suraiya Begum.  In-depth discussions on each section of the report were held with each commentator either representing the academia or the NGOs with a prolonged exposure and experience in the respective fields. The issues of discussion included: displacement due to river erosion, armed conflict, election violence, slum eviction, brothel eviction and shrimp cultivation. The in-depth discussion was followed by an open floor discussion. Several important suggestions were made for the revision of the booklet before the final publication and a forward-looking strategy for its dissemination was envisioned. The following are some key points, which could form the framework of such a strategy:


  • A South Asian perspective of internal displacement should be reflected in the booklet.
  • Definitions and categories of displacement that are specific to Bangladesh should be highlighted. The booklet may be distributed to all agencies working under the UN system in Bangladesh especially the UNHCR. Since it contains the first ever translation of the Guiding principles in Bangla, it should be especially useful at the grass-roots level.
  • A group may be formed, which will carry on the work of dissemination of the booklet. All participants at the workshop expressed their interest in contributing towards such activities.
  • An effective advocacy strategy should be formulated that is time-bound.
  • It was even suggested that instead of or in addition to one booklet there could be several, each highlighting one particular type of displacement. This should be easy to read and illustrated for the benefit of victims of the particular type of displacement.
  • A parallel media campaign is a must.
  • Psychological aspects of displacement should also be adequately reflected.
  • Internal displacement should be looked at together with increasing criminalization of the polity.
  • Resistance to internal displacement should also be documented.


India (Northeast)


Date: 28 and 29 January 2005-01-31


The Centre for Northeast India, South and Southeast Asia Studies (CENISEAS) in collaboration with the CRG held a workshop on the Relevance of the U N Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in Guwahati, Assam.  It was stated that the CRG project on IDPs is in collaboration with the Brookings Institutions project on IDPs.  Because India is such a large country this workshop was meant to look closely at the situation of internally displaced people in Northeast India alone.  In the inaugural session Sanjib Baruah, Senior Fellow CENISEAS said that Northeast India has the largest number of conflict induced IDPs in India yet they get little attention from either the government or the civil liberties activists and the national and international media.  He said that indigenous people are the hardest hit as a result of conflict in Northeast India.  He talked about 150,000 IDPs languishing in Kokrajhar camps and so he said that a translation of the Guiding Principles in vernacular languages might be a tool in the hands of the victim community.  Paula Banerjee from CRG discussed how the Guiding Principles are based on international humanitarian and human rights laws.  She also spoke on how the Guiding Principles are being translated and used in different countries of South Asia.  Ranabir Samaddar, Director CRG and ANS Ahmed, Director Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Science released a bilingual booklet on the Guiding Principles in Assamese and English.  The workshop was attended by many different organisations from Northeast India and also by members of different IDP camps such as Serang IDP camp, Adivasiya Sahitya Sabha, STTEP etc.  There were a number of women’s rights activists, academics, researchers, lawyers and government administrators.  There were over 50 participants in the workshop


Several important suggestions were made for carrying the programme forward:


  • It was said that in the context of Northeast India it is not adequate to translate the Guiding Principles only in Assamese.
  • The CENISEAS in collaboration with CRG agreed to translate it into Boro, Adivasi, Meitei and some other Northeast Indian languages in the future.
  • The translated Guiding Principles, it was agreed should be sent to inmates of the camps, other victims, civil liberties organisations, media, administrators and the security personnel.
  • CRG agreed to hold future workshops in IDP camps in collaboration with partner organisations in Northeast India. All participants at the workshop expressed their interest in contributing towards such activities.
  • It was suggested that in depth empirical studies should be conducted in IDP camps because hardly any reliable data exists on them.
  • It was also suggested that an information and media campaign could be organised around the visit of Professor Walter Kalin.
  • Efforts should be made for better exchange of data among people working on IDPs.
  • A network of interested people should be organised.  This network should consists of activists, scholars, lawyers, victims of displacement and other state holders.





Date: 20 November 2004


A workshop on the Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons in Nepal commenced at Kathmandu on November 20, 2004 with an objective to discuss on current situation of internally displaced persons and identify some strategies to address it. Thirty participants representing civil society and government participated in the workshop.  There were NGO activists, academics, lawyers and administrators in the meeting that was held in Hotel Himalaya in Kathmandu.


Calcutta Research Group (CRG) in collaboration with the Brookings Institution supported the initiative realizing the needs to discuss on the Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced People and its relevance in the current context of conflict in Nepal. The Nepal Institute of peace (NIP) was the local organiser of this workshop.

There were three main objectives of the workshop as follows:

  • Collect feedback on the draft advocacy booklet to finalize it;
  • Promote use of the booklet for future advocacy activities,
  • Prepare future strategies for working with conflict induced Internally Displaced people


The Nepali draft translations of the Guiding Principles were presented followed by discussions and recommendations. Moreover, two group discussions were held to finalize the future strategies for advocacy activities.  The workshop commenced with an inaugural address of Mr. Som Niroula, Secretary NIP, followed by Dr. Samir Kumar Das, Secretary CRG. Mr. Niroula highlighted the objective of the workshop and the current IDPs situation in Nepal. He, then, stressed on the organizations objectives as developing a culture of Peace in Nepal through the means of promotion and protection of human rights. He also highlighted the conflict-induced IDPs’ problems in Nepal since the initiation of the conflict. Dr. Samir Kumar Das highlighted the UN Guiding principles and their relevance in South Asian context. Mr. Pradip Shankar Wagle, an advocate working on the human right issues, highlighted the Legal system in dealing with IDPs in Nepal. He argued that there is recognition of IDP's as a result of developmental projects but there is no legal system to deal on IDP's as a result of conflict. He said that if refugees have rights in another country, than the IDP’s should also have equal rights as the citizens of the country and the Constitution of Nepal should guarantee the same rights and equality as guaranteed by the constitution of Nepal to all its citizens. Ms. Ranjana Thapa, a lawyer and a woman activist, presented the situation of IDPs in the current context. Prof. Kapil Srhestha, Moderator, a human rights activist in Nepal, raised the question of identity of the large population which displaced after the state of emergency in Nepal.  Mr. Achute Acharya, a Senior staff of the National Human Rights Commission, informed that NHRC created a IDPs desk in 2003. NHRC is trying to work in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forum on the IDPs issues. Dharma Raj Neupane, the Chairperson of the Association of the Sufferers of the Maoist, Nepal (ASMN), shared his experiences in the workshop saying that most of the people who do not have affiliation with political parities flew to India or another country.


The reflection of the participants about the workshop and strategies for dissemination of the translated GPs was as follows:

  • More emphasis should be given to prepare detailed strategies on the IDPs advocacy work in Nepal.
  • Need of similar types of such training workshops with the translated GPs should be held outside the capital city.
  • Addition of more case studies in the advocacy Nepali booklet relating to the IDP problem and strategy implementation would be beneficial.
  • Initiate e-mail network to disseminate the translated GPs and advocacy booklet.
  • Highlight the situation of the IDPs through District level workshops.
  • Launch a campaign in collaboration with other organizations to develop a model law or policy to protect and promote the rights of IDPs.
  • Conduct further research on the specific and general situation of IDPs




Date: 25 November 2004


The Aurat Foundation organized an orientation workshop on 25th November 2004 in Lahore, as part of the “Advocacy and Training Programme on the Relevance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in South Asia” launched by CRG in collaboration with the Brookings Institution. Representatives from NGOs, media, donor organizations, lawyers associations, relief organizations, universities, and government actively participated in the workshop. Altogether there were 32 participants respectively from 22 organizations.


The main objective of the workshop was to:


  • Raise awareness on the phenomenon of internal displacement with reference to UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
  • Establish networking with participating organizations on issue of internal displacement.
  • Work out a strategy to comprehensively and consistently address the issue of internal displacement in Pakistan.

Mr. Atta ur Rehman Sheikh (Coordinator, Pakistan) welcomed the participants, explained the objectives of the workshop and gave a brief introduction on the “Training and Advocacy on Relevance of UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in South Asia” launched by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG), India in collaboration with the Brookings Institution. A round of introductions of the participants followed.


Mr. I.A. Rehman (Director, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) delivered the keynote address to set the tone of the workshop. He briefly highlighted the critical issues that needed to be dealt with reference to internal displacement in the political backdrop of Pakistan. He said that Pakistan is a land of displaced persons as it experienced two major exoduses during the partition and the Soviet-Afghan war. There is a long history of internal displacement in the country, yet this issue remained insignificant in terms of research and legislation. He mentioned the Mangla dam, Tarbela dam, Islamabad Capital Territory, Cholistan and ongoing Gawadar Port Project wherein human rights of people are being violated on a massive scale. Mr. Rehman argued that the issue of internal displacement is part of larger issue of governmental policies and human rights violations.  Mr. Rehman congratulated the organizers of the workshop and their collaborators, which included Aurat Foundation, the Brookings Institute and MCRG, for taking initiative on such a pertinent issue.


The first working session was devoted to a detailed orientation on issues and concepts of internal displacement along with three presentations on conflict induced displacement. In the first working session, Dr. Sikandar Mehdi (Director, Migration and Refugee Studies Programme, Karachi University) made a presentation on the phenomenon of migration and displacement with reference to UN Guiding Principles. The second working session was devoted to presentations on development-induced displacement. However, one presentation on women and displacement, in order to look into the issue vis-à-vis gender perspective, was also incorporated in the session. In addition, a specific presentation on disaster and displacement was also part of post lunch session.  All the participants of the workshop and speakers were full of praise for the workshop being first modest initiative of its kind in Pakistan. The participants and the speakers in the course of the presentations made the following recommendations and suggestions:


·         Follow-up workshops, such as the one held, should be organized. The Migration and Refugee Study Programme of the Karachi University, the Migration Research Centre, Islamabad and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad may play a role in terms of coordination among the persons and organizations working on this issue and organizing activities to raise awareness and research on internal displacement.

  • In view of the general dearth of research work on internal displacement, research papers should be commissioned for quality research. This is also important to develop baseline data on the issue.
  • There are organizations and persons, though few in numbers, working on this issue in various ways. They should be identified and brought together for broader coordination and cooperation. A reference directory should be prepared for this purpose.
  • Organizations and institutions in and outside Pakistan should be contacted for resource mobilization to continue work on the issue on a longer-term basis.
  • There should be widespread distribution of the Urdu version of the Guiding Principle as an advocacy tool.


Sri Lanka


Date: 10 March 2005


The National Peace Council organized a workshop on 10 March 2005 in Colombo as part of the “Advocacy and Training Programme on the Relevance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in South Asia” launched by CRG in collaboration with the Brookings Institution and discussed the issue of both war affected IDPs and Tsunami affected IDPs.  There were 31 participants and they included representatives of UNICEF, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, Social Science Research Council, Human Rights Commission, Centre for Communication Training etc.


Jehan Perera said that the issues of war affected IDP’s was marginalized and was forgotten during the peace process. However Tsunami, although a great disaster proved to have a sliver lining as it brought the IDP issue into limelight once again. Many organizations that had different mandates have started working on IDP issues bringing it to the centre stage. He highlighted the differences between war-affected IDP’s and Tsunami affected IDP’s in the following manner.


War-affected IDP’s

Tsunami affected IDP’

Difficulty of gaining access to war displaced persons

As Tsunami only for 20 minutes gaining access to Tsunami IDP’s was not a major issue

War displacement was caused by human factors

Tsunami displacement was caused by nature

Highlighting was displaced persons issues were considered unpatriotic.

Even media did not want to report on was displaced persons.

Issues of Tsunami affected persons could be highlight in the media without resistance and every one was prompted to address their concerns


Tsunami has reduced the negative impact on IDP’s. It has developed an opportunity in which Sri Lankans can address IDP concerns in an efficient manner, as plenty of resources are available because there is international focus. Aid that is received can be used for both war and tsunami victims, in an equitable manner.


Nilhan de mel said that the focus of the workshop was to discuss about how Sri Lankans should address the issues of Tsunami IDPs and War affected IDPs-


  • Should they be addressed as a whole or should they address IDP issues separately?
  • What are the civil society key initiatives and interests in IDP policy development?
  • What are the key issues that should be addressed on IDPs? How could they be addressed?


Dharani Rajasingham said it is important to link post-tsunami and post-war displacement for equitable reconstruction, in order to ensure equability and peace. Post-tsunami situation is a great opportunity to address reconciliation and peace.  Her recommendations included:

  1. There should be an attempt to promote-multi-ethnic constituencies through resettlement, where cultural diversity and historical co-existence of communities will be prompted and protected.
  2. Should consider the situation of local minorities as the Multi-cultural National Vision for Peace developed in 2003 should talk about local minorities. People who are most vulnerable for displacement are local minorities. Although this is suggested it is not yet picked up.
  3. It is necessary to focus on conflict sensitivity and pro-poor action.
  4. Consideration of historical conditions should be given in reconstruction.
  5. Post Tsunami reconstruction affirmative action should be pro-poor.
  6. Transparency is necessary for pro-poor reconstruction.
  7. Conduct clear assessment of how much it will cost to rebuild houses.
  8. Pro-poor policies of individuals to participate in reconstruction of housing are necessary.
  9. Guiding principles on Internally Displacement is a valuable document but we have to contextualize according to Sri Lanka culture.


T. Jeyasingham spoke on the situation of minorities.  He recommended the following:

  • IDPs need caring people.
  • We need much more government support.
  • Developing better structures and Better warning system in the Coastal area rather then resettling the IDPs.
  • Build confidence
  • Ministries should be integrated
  • Awareness should be created among people
  • Decentralize the system and promote consultation


The meeting ended with a promise by participants to evolve programs on the basis of recommendations made.



A South Asian Review of the Advocacy Programme, Bangkok


Date: 14-15 March 2005


The review meeting held on 14 and 15 March in Trang Hotel Bangkok took notice of the translations of the UN Guiding Principles in various South Asian languages as a result of the South Asian campaign and drew satisfaction from the way in which all the advocacy workshops had been designed, planned, and executed in South Asia. Members of Forum Asia facilitated the meeting.  The participants included:


Atta ur Rehman Sheikh, Aurat Foundation, Pakistan

Erin Mooney, Brookings Institution, USA

Meghna Guhathakurta, Ain O Salish Kendra and Dhaka University, Bangladesh

Nilhan de Mel, National Peace Council, Sri Lanka

Paula Banerjee, CRG, India

Ranabir Samaddar, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (CRG), India

Samir Das, CRG, India

Sanjib Baruah, Centre for Policy Research, India

Som Niroula, Nepal Institute of Peace, Nepal

Suraiya Begum, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh


On the first day Ranabir Samaddar, the Director of the CRG, initiated the discussion.  He began by portraying how the Tsunami had brought the issue of IDPs to the forefront in South Asia.  He said displacement was no longer just a humanitarian issue, but a political one - it was a question of rights. Paula Banerjee stated that CRG was interested in issues of displacement, which stemmed from CRG’s interest in peace studies.  She emphasised that CRG studies refugee issues as related to conflicts and rights. She thanked the Brookings Institution, and in particular Roberta Cohen for consistent inspiration and support to CRG’s work, on the IDPs who had been more vulnerable than refugees of this region where States have been most responsible in producing IDPs.  According to Banerjee States have rarely produced well thought out policies on relief and rehabilitation of the IDPs and have failed to carry out measures with a long perspective. Whatever has happened as relief measures, has been the product of ad hoc steps taken by the states.


Erin Mooney from the Brookings Institution discussed the Brookings-Bern project that has made possible to facilitate this exercise in South Asia.  She said that the project has a global mandate.  This is particularly highlighted by the association of Walter Kalin who is currently Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights of the IDPs. Kalin’s mandate include:

  • Advocacy and dialogue with Governments and all groups involved.
  • Promotion of the Guiding Principles.
  • Mainstreaming human rights of IDPs – working with Governments, civil societies and media persons

Erin Mooney stated that Walter Kalin was scheduled to visit different parts of South Asia soon.  Both Mooney and Ranabir Samaddar felt that Kalin’s planned visit could be considered an opportunity to highlight the rights of IDPs. 


These initial discussions were followed by presentations made by country partners on their experiences of organising and facilitating the advocacy programme.   


Country Presentations:



Meghna Guhathakurta from Ain O Salish Kendra and Research Institute of Bangladesh began the discussions by stating the difficult circumstances under which they worked on the advocacy meeting and IDP booklet, since the present political situation in Bangladesh is particularly unstable. Dr. Guhathakurta and her co-researcher Suraiya Begum said that in the context of Bangladesh they highlighted the following cases of displacement:

  • Due to river erosion
  • Due to conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)
  • Due to marginalisation of minorities
  • Due to state eviction of slums and brothels
  • Induced by globalisation – displacing people from their livelihoods.


The Bangladesh segment stressed on the psychological aspects of displacement that takes place in each case.  Dr. Guhathakurta is of the opinion that IDP programs do not adequately address this issue.  Bangladesh was increasingly witnessing the criminalisation of polity.  This has led to displacement being a large part of life in Bangladesh but at the same time the country also had a rich experience in resistance to such arbitrary displacement.  This is why displacement in Bangladesh has not involved much crossing of borders by the displaced.  It is because people have faith in rights based movements that they wait to get back to their original homes, to reclaim their lands. She noted however that workshops though initiating the work, were not enough to get all stake-holders together.  For this the media needs to be mobilized as well as other institutions and individuals need to be sensitised.



Ata ur Rehman from Aurat Foundation said that he enjoyed translating the IDP booklet as it was the first for such an endeavour.  Moreover, since the program had a limited budget he had to be creative in thinking out strategies.  In Pakistan he and his group organised a one-day advocacy workshop where 32 participants from 22 organisations participated, resulting in lively discussions.  The main objectives of the workshop was to give an orientation to Pakistani human rights activists about the Guiding Principles and to establish a network of people interested in issues of rehabilitation and care of IDPs.

The workshop he reported included the following sessions:

  • IDPs and the Guiding Principles.
  • Displacement in Wana because of military operations.
  • Displacement in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Displacement in Balochistan.
  • The Land Acquisition Act.
  • Displacement due to projects related to water.
  • Displacement due the construction of the Mangla Dam.
  • women and displacement. 

Finally, there was a session on the strategies necessary for rehabilitation and care.


The resource material that was disseminated included materials published by the Brookings Institution such as Exodus Within Borders and chapters from Report on World Commission on Dams. Participants were expected to study these materials as well as the Guiding Principles. There was wide press coverage of the workshop by the media in Pakistan, both the print and broadcasting media. The suggestions made as a follow-up to the workshop included the following:

  • More workshops needed.
  • More research needed as general dearth of research work in the field of IDPs felt.
  • More organisations need to be identified for research and advocacy work.

A committee was set up to review the booklet and on the basis of its feedback the booklet is printed. Among the problems identified by the Aurat foundation in doing this programme were: (a) Paucity of budget allocations and (b) Lack of research on the issue in the context of Pakistan.



Som Niraula reported that the advocacy workshop in Kathmandu had 30 participants and during the meeting there was extensive discussions on the creation of a toolkit for activists working with IDPs. The Nepali partners felt that it was very difficult to work on the issue as no organisation works on IDPs in Nepal.  Some just have a small component on IDPs within their other projects and so often there is big lacuna in understanding the situation of IDPs. The Nepal Institute of Peace felt that there is tremendous scope in working on this issue in Nepal as this is one of the post important emerging political issue requiring international attention.  During the discussion that ensued after Niraula’s opening comments it was stressed by the other participants that within South Asia Nepal is one of the most challenging cases that require the attention of groups working on IDPs.  Sri Lanka provided a past example of forced displacement and Nepal shows how IDPs are here to stay in the context of this region. It was stated that no one has any actual idea of the exact number of IDPs in Nepal and often international communities do their research on IDPs by just visiting Kathmandu.  Hence in the context of Nepal more primary research was necessary to enrich advocacy work on IDPs. 


During the discussion Erin Mooney once again reminded participant’s about Walter Kalin’s recent trip to Nepal.  The participants suggested that NIP should make that an occasion to campaign for IDPs in Nepal.


Northeast of India:

Sanjib Baruah, who led the advocacy work in Northeast India commented that the situation in the Northeast is extremely complex.  There are a number of languages and so translating the Guiding Principles only in one language may complicate the issue.  Hence he aid as a first step he translated the GP into Assamese with the hope that later he might do it in other languages such as Bodo, Meitei, Santhali etc.  In describing the translation of the GP into Assamese Baruah said that he followed it with the English text next to the translations.  This was done keeping in mind the polarisation of the North East whereby publishing the Assamese text only would have been perceived as being politically motivated.  He also said that translations of Bengali and Nepali translations of the GP is a must in Northeast because there were sizeable population speaking these two languages.  As for the displacement scene in Northeast Baruah is of the opinion that the region has seen a chain reaction in displacement. The displacement of Bengali Muslims from India led to the pushing out of Bhutias from Dargeeling, which in turn led to the expulsion of Nepalese from Bhutan.  This was followed by displacement of many other groups who were both victors and vanquished at the same time.


Baruah reported that the advocacy workshop in the Northeast was held on 28-29 January.  Ranabir Samaddar, Paula Banerjee, Monirul Hussai and Dilip Sharma were present at the workshop.  A number of sessions were held.  A film show was organised that portrayed the situation of IDPs in the Bodo areas.  He felt that there was a need to have more Bodo activisits since the Bodo militants often pose a greater obstacle than the Government when people visit their areas with the stated purpose of working on IDPs. During the advocy meeting in Guwahati he reported that the media was present though they covered the workshop still it was a very small intervention.  In order to do anything seriously, he is of the opinion that long-term strategies are needed.


Sri Lanka:

Representatives from the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka was of the opinion that they faced hardly any trouble in compiling the booklet on Guiding Principles (GP) and none with the translation of the GP because displacement is such an important phenomena in the context of Sri Lanka and terms that do not exist in other languages explaining the situation of IDPs exists in Tamils and Sinhalese from the 1980s. 


About the workshop discussions Nilhan de Mel of National Peace Council said that although there were confusions and problems that arose after the Tsunami there was a positive result because it opened up the IDP issue in Sri Lanka once again.  Till then the IDP issue had become politicised as the majority of the IDPs were Tamils and so it was not considered to be patriotic to talk about them. But the Tsunami has produced both Tamil and Sinhalese IDPs.


De Mel brought up the issue of buffer zones. As per the coastal conservation laws construction within 100 meters of the sea is not permitted.  But it was not implemented and the Tsunami has thrown up controversy about this law all over again.  The buffer zone issue was felt as being anti-poor, as it is putting the fishermen in trouble since no fisherman is willing to tow his boats 300 meters from the sea and drag them there everyday.  There is no consultation – the Government does not ask anyone about his or her opinion on the law.  The law is changing everyday and yet in the midst of it all hotels are given permission to rebuild within the buffer zones. All these issues have brought back questions of rehabilitation and care to the centre stage and people working on R & R feel that durable housings should precede moving people away from the coast.


The first day the meeting ended with a decision to meet the next day again until lunch.


The next day a number of recommendations were made to carry the work forward. They included:


  • The need to have a public lecture series – like the Amnesty International approach.
  • The need to take up research.  Each country takes up one case for one year and at the annual meeting share its findings with others and it becomes a database.
  • Stories of resistance should be collected and made into a booklet.
  • Provide training for lawyers at a regional level and see if international mechanisms can be applied or we need to have regional mechanisms.
  • Training of Government officials in dealing with R & R of IDPs. 
  • Legal training: Lawyers can be asked for best practices and exchange of information.
  • Publish booklet on best practices based on training.
  • Develop policies based on training.
  • Booklets should be adequately publicised.  They should be printed in adequate numbers and distributed.
  • Meghna Guhathakurta suggested the usage of street theatre to raise consciousness regarding IDPs.


The meeting ended in a positive note with the partners agreeing to work in collaboration with CRG and Brookings Institution for a larger research and advocacy program for the IDPs in South Asia in the future.