From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Resolving Refugees' Crisis Demands Comprehensive Approach to

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Fri, 23 Apr 2004 08:41:40 -0500

Resolving Refugees' Crisis Demands Comprehensive Approach
to Root Causes of Displacement 
LWF Consultation Calls for Incorporation of Rights-based
Approach in All DWS Interventions 

MOMBASA, Kenya/GENEVA, 23 April 2004 (LWI) * The situation of
African refugees must be seen as an issue with wider dimension
and deeper complexity requiring a comprehensive approach to the
root causes of displacement and uprootedness. "There is no
clear-cut distinction between the causes nor victims," Mr Enock
Oduro, international program coordinator for Canadian Lutheran
World Relief (CLWR) told participants in a regional gathering of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service

Oduro was addressing participants in the East, North and West
Africa LWF/DWS regional consultation, March 22-26 in Kenya's
coastal city of Mombasa. The meeting's theme, "The Rights of
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons," had a special focus
on a rights-based approach to displaced people's concerns.
CLWR's refugee program coordinator Fikre Tsehai also addressed
the consultation.

The CLWR representatives cited the developed countries'
commitment to an effective partnership with Africa in the
framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development,
NEPAD, and hoped such efforts would contribute to the sustainable
return of up to 2 million refugees. 

Voluntary repatriation, often the preferred solution, is not
applicable if returnees flee again due to dim prospects for a
peaceful and secure life. Resettlement, the CLWR representatives
argued, should be considered a durable solution for refugees who
have no other option. Through an agreement with the Canadian
government, CLWR resettles 250 refugees annually. 

An LWF partner through the DWS and Department for Mission and
Development (DMD), CLWR is the development agency of the two main
Lutheran churches in Canada/Lutheran Church-Canada and the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. 

'September 11' Aftermath Affects Application of Rights-based
Approach to Refugee Issues in the West

But there are other concerns, the CLWR representatives
explained. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks
against the United States of America there is misconception in
the West that asylum seekers and refugees are criminals. This
presumption poses difficulties in the application of rights-based
procedures concerning the validity and legitimacy of refugees'
claims. It leads to irrational rules, which affect civil
liberties and refugee rights, they argued. Oduro and Tsehai
expressed CLWR's commitment to serve refugees and immigrants
and seek justice for all. 

Mr Hugh Ivory, representing Lutheran World Relief (LWR),
explained the organization's approach to relief and development
programs in the over 50 countries worldwide in which it is
operational. In its mission and mandate, LWR focuses on
people's right to earn a living with dignity; to life and
security and to have a choice in making decisions that affect
their lives. 

LWR is the international relief and development agency of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod. It provides funding to the LWF through DWS
and DMD.

Mr Stein Villumstad, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) representative
for East Africa, said the NCA's strategic response to the
humanitarian situation in its ten focus countries in the region
is based on a concept of building human dignity. This involves
ensuring security by working for peace and stability at all
levels of society. He specifically mentioned combating all forms
of violence against children and women; fighting the
proliferation of weapons including mine clearance; and advocating
for a well-train
ed civilian police to protect people's rights.

Ensuring Fundamental Right to Life among Ivorian, Sudanese

The LWF/DWS Guinea program was formally established in 2001. Mr
Demba Niang, the program's coordinator, noted that although the
office does not specifically apply a rights-based approach in its
work, this is somewhat in-built in its projects. "By its mere
presence and activities in the refugee camps of the N'Zerekore
region, LWF supports the right of populations in distress to have
access to humanitarian assistance, thereby ensuring protection of
their fundamental right to life," he said. The Guinea office
takes care of 80,000 refugees mainly from Liberia and Ivory

The office carries out awareness-raising activities about
refugees' rights. It also fosters dialogue between the refugees
and the host communities with the aim to promote peaceful
co-existence including the sharing of scarce resources such as
water and forests. 

Mr Bobby Waddell, director of the DWS Kenya/Sudan program
explained LWF's rights-based interventions at the Kakuma
Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. The camp was established in 1992
to accommodate Sudanese fleeing fighting between the Government
of Sudan and Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The camp
currently hosts 87,000 refugees, 65 percent of whom are Sudanese.
The lead implementing agency and Kakuma camp manager, the
Kenya/Sudan program is responsible for water supply and
distribution, logistics and food distribution, education,
community services, development and security.  

Waddell cited a number of challenges that lead to situations
compromising the human rights of individual refugees. Shortfalls
in food supply jeopardize the basic right to food, putting
refugees at risk of violence in their search for alternative
sources. Some cultural practices, he noted, conflict with human
rights of certain refugees; a girl's right to education may
conflict with the cultural right to marry at an early age. 

Heightened Human Rights Awareness among Refugees, Major
Challenges Remain

Some lessons have been learnt, and there are success stories as
a result of awareness raising about refugees' rights.
Addressing gender issues as well as children's concerns from a
human rights perspective has yielded results "and now gender
issues are not dismissed as women's issues, but they are seen
as critical human rights issues," Waddell said. There has been
a significant change concerning sexual violence against girls and
women in the camp, with 206 cases reported in 2003 compared to
1,029 in 2000. Even elderly and conservative Sudanese men "have
been heard mentioning human rights in the course of case

Some questions remain unanswered, Waddell noted. What is the
future of the current human rights awareness efforts in view of
the different practices and laws in the refugees' countries of
origin? How could rights, particularly related to sexual violence
against women and children be protected while maintaining
cultural relativism and sensitivity? 

In their recommendations, participants acknowledged the complex
and diverse situations of the respective DWS programs in the
East, North and West African region, and noted the lack of a
clearly defined rights-based approach in humanitarian and
development activities. They proposed a review of the LWF/DWS
Global Strategy and Country Strategy Outlook guidelines so as to
incorporate commitment to a rights-based approach for all LWF/DWS
interventions worldwide.

DWS serves as the LWF's international relief, rehabilitation
and development agency, maintaining 24 service programs and
emergency operations in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin
America and the Caribbean, and Europe. Ten country programs were
represented at the Mombasa consultation, also attended by
representatives of ten-related agencies supporting LWF's work,
and one UNHCR official. (1,114 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
service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not
represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation
(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with
*    *	   *

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