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Ten Humanitarian Headlines for 2010

Source: Refugees International - USA - Wed, 6 Jan 2010 08:18 PM
Author: Joel Charny
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It's now standard to wrap up the year with lists of ten: best films; greatest sporting moments; most influential people. In the spirit of a hopeful start to the New Year and decade, I propose a different sort of list: ten events we'd like to see in the world of humanitarian action in 2010. None of the mock headlines below herald an era of global peace and harmony. But each of these headlines could plausibly appear in the coming year, and Refugees International will be doing everything in its power to make them happen.

1) Kenyan Government Agrees to Dadaab Expansion

For almost two years UNHCR and government officials have been urging the Kenyan government to expand Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya, a camp built for 90,000 Somali refugees that now houses more than 300,000. A site has been identified and negotiations have neared conclusion, but the weak and divided Kenyan government hasn't ratified the deal. Making this happen in 2010 is essential, as Somalis continue to cross the border due to conflict and drought.

2) UN Announces Contingency Plan in Event of Sudan Violence

2010 is a momentous year for Sudan, with national elections scheduled and preparation for the January 2011 independence referendum for the south required. The situation is quite fragile, and the focus needs to be on not only preventing violence but on preparing for its potential humanitarian consequences.

3) U.S. Maintains Support to Displaced Iraqis

The issue of Iraqi displacement is almost forgotten in the U.S., despite the millions of people still uprooted from their homes. People are unlikely to return home, and displacement may increase in 2010 as the U.S. draws down its forces. Substantial U.S. support for displaced Iraqis will be essential, as neither the Iraqi government nor other donors are likely to provide sufficient assistance.

4) Access Increases to Pakistan Displaced

More people are likely to be displaced in Pakistan this year as the government pursues a military campaign against Taliban militants. Access by international humanitarian agencies has been limited by legitimate security problems and Pakistani government restrictions. Full recognition of the displacement problem and guarantees of greater access where security permits are essential to fully protecting and assisting Pakistan's most vulnerable people.

5) Colombia Complies with Court Decision on Rights of Displaced Women

In 2008 the highest court in Colombia ordered the Colombian government to deal with the socio-economic needs of displaced women and address 183 specific cases of sexual violence among this group. International pressure is needed to ensure that Colombia abides by this decision.

6) UN peackeepers to Remain in Congo through 2011

Although the Congolese government is becoming restless with its presence, the UN peacekeeping force remains the best guarantor of civilian protection in volatile eastern Congo. The UN Security Council needs to insist that the peacekeeping force stays through 2011, while assuring that any drawdown is conducted responsibly.

7) Countries Agree to Preliminary Framework to Protect Thousands Displaced by Climate Change

Climate change will displace hundreds of thousands of people, but international legal protection for those crossing borders is weak. In the follow up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, an agreement will be needed to guarantee the rights of those forced to flee to neighboring countries due to natural disasters and emergencies associated with climate change.

8) Congress Approves over $2 Billion in Refugee Funding

The United States has a proven capacity to spend close to $2 billion to respond to refugee needs worldwide and assist refugees being resettled in the U.S. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration has been conservative in its budget requests for refugee programs. For the 2011 fiscal year, $2.3 billion is required for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account.

9) High Commissioner Visit to Focus on Statelessness

UNHCR has increased its efforts to fulfill its mandate to protect 12 million stateless people. But a visit by High Commissioner Guterres focused on statelessness would underscore the agency's overall commitment. Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Syria are all potential places for such a visit.

10) UN Hires Strong Humanitarian Leaders for Crisis Response

Good humanitarian leadership determines the effectiveness of any international response to crisis situations. 2009 saw an impressive effort by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to finally address the need to hire individuals with extensive humanitarian experience. But the ranks remain thin, and the effort needs to be redoubled in 2010.

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