Monday, August 12, 2002

Human rights initiative to help protect displaced people in Liberia

Monday, 12 August 2002: Contrary to expectations that peace would come to Liberia following elections in 1997, the country instead plunged into recurring hostilities and instability, leaving a quarter of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.

Collapse of the country's economic and political infrastructure has added to people's hardships, particularly displaced families living in camps. Armed groups infiltrating the camps have abused and exploited many, and women and children are often the primary targets.

The UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) has designed an initiative to bolster protection of vulnerable groups. It is based on a strategy developed by the UN Country Team in consultation with the Government, the International Committee of the Red Cross, other international and local NGOs, and local human rights groups.

The UNDP Office in Liberia, in collaboration with these partners and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is carrying out the US$500,000 project, co-funded by BCPR and the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy.

The project will improve camp management; strengthen systems for reporting, monitoring and following up on rights abuses; and promote awareness of human rights among displaced people and host communities where camps are located.

The initiative will also provide training for government officials and police and security forces to reinforce the government's ability to spread understanding of and respect for the civil rights of all citizens, working within the framework provided by the Liberian Ministerial Task Force on Protection.

"UNDP has a critical role to play in promoting recovery for displaced people, even in the midst of a crisis," said Marie Dimond, programme specialist with BCPR.

"This approach identifies durable solutions to building self-reliance among displaced people and their host communities. It will also help strengthen the capacity of local and national institutions to facilitate safe reintegration of the displaced back into their communities," she said.

The initiative will work with local communities, women's groups and the Government to build a collaborative, community-based approach for protecting human rights. These efforts will facilitate resettlement of displaced people, once conditions have stabilized sufficiently for them to return home.