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Ambassador Hamamoto on the Importance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
May 13, 2016

2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID 2016)woman at podium
Remarks by Ambassador Hamamoto

Centre International de Conférence Genève
Friday, May 13, 2016

Thank you, Kristy.  And thank you to Alexandra Bilak and to IDMC for giving me the opportunity to address you today.  I want to congratulate IDMC on delivering another ground-breaking report on internally displaced persons (IDPs).  You remain our trusted source of analysis and statistics on internal displacement.

Let me say, first of all, that I’m sorry I can’t stay for the panel discussion, which promises to be fascinating. But I wanted to be here today to tell you why IDPs are important to the United States, and what we intend to achieve at the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to help better ensure their protection and the implementation of durable solutions.

You heard the numbers from Alexandra, and they are shocking.  We can see the magnitude of the situation and how multidimensional the challenge of internal displacement really is.  Responding to this challenge is an inherent responsibility of national governments.  But as a global community, we must advocate for protecting displaced persons and addressing their specific needs until a durable solution is attained.

A more comprehensive approach and durable solutions

It’s imperative that the international community considers the long-term consequences of population movements from the outset of a disaster and endeavors to support host communities while protecting vulnerable persons.  That’s an important objective of the United States for Istanbul.  It is up to all of us to overcome the separation between humanitarian assistance and development aid.  They must go hand in hand, especially in protracted situations of displacement where people have little prospect of returning home.

And that’s precisely what the United States is doing in countries like Syria.  Where possible, we’ve sought to implement pilot development initiatives, including limited livelihoods programs, to prevent displacement and to help those who are uprooted to live with dignity.

Foreigners in their own countries – Meeting their needs

The needs are immense…in Syria and elsewhere. The number of IDPs far exceeds the number of refugees in the world.  And that brings me to the second objective of the U.S. for Istanbul: The humanitarian system must move from a supply-driven model dominated by aid providers to a demand-driven model more responsive to those in need.  The message we’ll take to the World Humanitarian Summit is simple: We, as governments and humanitarian actors, must hold each other accountable for acting in concert to achieve collective results for people in need, including displaced populations.  We believe this will be key in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our humanitarian aid.

We also believe that there is a need to re-establish a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Protection of IDPs.  This would strengthen the UN’s ability to focus on addressing the complex challenges facing the world’s 40 million IDPs.  To that end, the United States hopes that the June Human Rights Council resolution renewing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will also contemplate a future transition from the Council’s mandate to the new Special Representative.     

Accountability, protection, and international humanitarian law

The violations witnessed today around the world are alarming.  Governments and humanitarian actors are accountable to each other, but also before the law.  Both innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers are paying the price.  We cannot let this be the new normal, which is why a primary objective at the Summit will be to encourage compliance with International Humanitarian Law.

For many, internal displacement is the first phase of international displacement and migration.  Supporting efforts to strengthen the legal framework for protection of IDPs must therefore be a priority.  Integrating the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement into domestic laws and policies can assist national governments in addressing the challenges of displacement before they become international crises. The African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of IDPs is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when countries work together.

I’ll end with a statement from President Obama, who said that “Hope is not blind optimism.  It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.  Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us…by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”

Oftentimes, hope is the only thing internally displaced persons have left.  We do have a long road ahead of us, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul is an important step along the way.

Thank you all for what your organizations are doing – for the courage to help the millions who’ve been forced to leave their homes and their lives behind.  Together, let’s raise the global profile of displaced persons and urge for collective action to address displacement.

Thank you.