From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Integrating a Rights-based Approach in Humanitarian Work among

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Fri, 23 Apr 2004 08:40:33 -0500

Integrating a Rights-based Approach in Humanitarian Work
among Displaced Persons
LWF Department for World Service Regional Consultation for East,
North, West Africa

MOMBASA, Kenya/GENEVA, 23 April 2004 (LWI) * "Refugees and
internally displaced persons (IDPs) in some cases do not know the
limit of their rights. They consider care givers as people
mandated to provide [these] services whether they have the means
or not. They ask such questions as why have you not brought our
utensils, mats, or tarpaulins, why are you not feeding us with
maize meal?" 

This was how Mr Edward Yarkpazuo, coordinator of the Lutheran
World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) Liberia
program presented some of the challenges facing the office's
work among refugees and IDPs in the West African country. He was
among 60 participants in a regional consultation bringing
together representatives of the ten LWF/DWS country programs in
the East, North and West African region. Also in attendance were
officials from LWF donor agencies and program staff from the
Geneva Secretariat. The March 22-26 consultation in Kenya's
coastal city of Mombasa was held under the theme "The Rights of
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons," with emphasis on a
rights-based approach to displaced people's concerns. The
Kenya/Sudan program hosted the meeting. 

In Liberia Ex-Combatants Instigate Conflict in Camps

LWF/DWS Liberia works among IDPs and refugees from Sierra Leone
and other countries. In the country since the 1990s civil war,
the office faces many challenges including cases of warlords'
administration of narcotic drugs to youth, many of whom were
child soldiers, Yarkpazuo explained. So-called ex-combatants, he
noted, sometimes settle in IDP camps as displaced persons, only
to become the source of daily problems including strife with camp
leaders. Another challenge is the impact of lucrative mercenary
ventures in the West African region. Due to the civil war, boys
and girls in the region have become exposed to every aspect of
adult life at a very early age, he said. 

But there are real signs of hope since the civil war in Liberia
ended. Following the October 2003 installation of the National
Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), the international
community including the United Nations, United States of America
and European Union have pledged USD 520 million toward the peace
process in the West African country. 

LWF/DWS Liberia is a major partner in a priority task of the
NTGL - the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and
Re-integration (DDRR) of around 40,000 ex-combatants. Some 9,000
former fighters were disarmed last December, but the process was
disrupted when some of them, demanding money for their
surrendered guns, blamed the UN and Liberian government for not
providing earlier awareness about the DDRR. When the process
recommences in April, DWS Liberia will set up two of the four
centers where verification, registration, awareness raising,
health examination and final disarmament will take place.

The DWS Liberia office collaborates with the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees and the government commission on
refugees and IDPs' rights to train some of its staff in the
area of refugee protection. Support services provided at the two
LWF-run camps * Jah Tondo and Salala * in conjunction with
international and local agencies such as the Association of
Female Lawyers of Liberia include prevention of sexual
exploitation of children and women.

On the way forward, Yarkpazuo emphasized the need for long-term
human rights training for leaders of refugees and IDPs.
Peacekeepers, he noted, should have an operational mandate to
intervene and curtail the pro
liferation of rebels in a given

Tanzania Now Cautious of Refugees as a Potential Security Risk

 From East Africa, Mr Duane Poppe, director of the Tanganyika
subsistence farming for their economic independence and dignity.
decade. Post-independence, the government pursued a very liberal
negatively influence the Tanzanian host communities, and who must
providing them asylum that extended to granting enough land for
Christian Refugee Service (TCRS) reported that the Tanzanian
genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, the government has become
government had changed its attitude toward refugees over the last
therefore be kept in strictly controlled conditions, Poppe
cautious of refugees as a security risk, and as people who may
and progressive policy of welcoming refugees as guests and
But since the early 1990s massive influxes from situations of

The government currently limits the refugees' movement to a
four-kilometer radius of the overcrowded camps, where they are
totally dependent on handouts from the international community
for their survival. Because of their confinement, Poppe said,
refugees are unable to engage in any economic activity such as
share cropping or small-scale trading to supplement the
insufficient assistance received in the camps. "The refugees'
right to work for self-reliance and personal dignity is
infringed," he said. In Tanzanian since 1964, TCRS/focusing
on community empowerment, disaster relief and
refugees/currently works with an estimated 130,000 Burundian
refugees in five camps in the western district of Kibondo.
Although a significant number of the refugees repatriated
following the improved political situation in Burundi, large
numbers are still expected to remain in the camps until the end
of this year. 

In its rights-based intervention for refugees TCRS engages its
related-agencies in lobbying their governments for additional
grants to meet food shortfalls. The program also advocates the
application of the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in
Disaster Response * SPHERE, in western Tanzania among UN,
international and local NGO staff working with refugees. 

Concerning infringement on the rights of refugees to movement
and work for self reliance, TCRS involves its national partner,
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, in lobbying
high-ranking government officials to argue for refugees' access
to land for food production. Other initiatives include media
exposure visits to refugee camps aimed at "countering the
popular perception of refugees as freeloaders while local
Tanzanian poor people suffer," Poppe reported. The program has
organized workshops between refugee and host community leaders on
the peaceful sharing of local water and forest resources, and
lobbied district authorities to open markets to allow refugees
engage in petty trading.

Implementing a Rights-based Approach May Lead to Tension with

The rights-based focus on refugee work is not devoid of internal
and external challenges. It often brings TCRS into conflict with
the government or other authorities responsible for rights
protection, Poppe explained. "As long as TCRS stuck to service
delivery we did not have to deal with this. "[But] as we take a
higher campaigning profile, we can expect conflict, of Liberia include
prevention of sexual" he

Marianne Hallberg, DanChurchAid regional representative for
Eastern Africa cited some potential gains in a rights-based
approach to refugee work. She spoke of improved institutional
dialogue with government authorities on claims at local and
international levels; increased networking with a broader range
of stakeholders both horizontally (at the local level) and
vertically (from local, regional, national and international
levels); and a stronger focus on empowerment and
awareness-raising. (1,122 words)

(A contribution by Kenyan-based LWI correspondent Osman Njuguna,
who attended the DWS regional consultation.) 

[The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing 62.3 million
of the almost 66 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology, humanitarian
assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in
Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF's information
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