Working visit by the The Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of IDPs

02 Oct 2006

The Representative of the Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (RSG), Mr. Walter Kälin, carried out a working visit to Turkey from 28 September to 1 October 2006 on the invitation of the Governor of Van Province, Mr. Niyazi Tanirli.

Conclusions and recommendations

In Ankara, he met with representatives of the State Planning Office (SPO) and the Hacettepe University Institute of Population Studies on their Migration and Displacement Survey and TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation). On 29 September he spoke at a conference in Van convened to launch the “Van Provincial Action Plan for Responding to IDP Needs” (Action Plan) in the presence of Mr. Abdulkadir Aksu, Minister of Interior, the governors of the fourteen South-Eastern Anatolian provinces, local authorities, representatives of the international community and of civil society, as well as the media. On 30 September, he visited a returnee village in Gürpinar District and social projects assisting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Van. The visit concluded with a debriefing meeting with Governor Tanirli on 1 October.

At the end of this visit the RSG draws the following conclusions:

  1. During the last two years, significant progress has been made in Turkey, both in terms of the adoption of laws and policies addressing internal displacement, and more generally in the commitment demonstrated by the Turkish Government to find solutions for the displaced in open cooperation with civil society and the international community. The adoption of the Van Provincial IDP Action Plan and the political support provided to it by the Government of Turkey provide a unique window of opportunity to find durable solutions for many of the IDPs and a momentum that must be seized as a matter of urgency.
  1. The Van Action plan elaborated within a short time is comprehensive and holistic. It provides an important and adequate instrument to address displacement with a view to find durable solutions. Its strengths include: (i) the reflection of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the human rights principles they are based upon, in particular the principle that IDPs can freely choose between return to their places of origin, local integration where they presently live, or resettlement to another part of the country; (ii) the consultative and participatory process involving a wide range of stakeholders; (iii) the focus on displaced persons as active citizens, rather than only passive beneficiaries, whose needs are at the center both of the process and the envisaged outcomes of the plan; and (iv) its comprehensive and holistic nature, as demonstrated by the combination of, on the one hand, activities aimed at the physical reconstruction of infrastructure and homes and the safeguarding of property rights for those wishing to return, with, on the other hand, numerous measures aimed at the social and economic reintegration of IDPs and the provision of public service. The integration of the reconstruction of rural settlements into the South Van Rural Development Plan not only benefits IDPs and returnees themselves, but also other affected groups such as host communities.
  1. The implementation of the Action Plan might be faced with the following challenges and obstacles: (1) insufficient resources; (2) weak coordination of implementation activities; and (3) lack of security in rural areas of return, including landmines and the presence of village guards that are, or might be perceived as, a threat by returnees.

The RSG recommends:

  1. To the Governorate of Van:
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    1. To use a phased approach when implementing the Action Plan and in this regard to identify – in close cooperation with UNDP – priorities of certain objectives and activities whose realization is more urgent than that of others.
    2. To ensure, at the provincial level, strong coordination between all relevant actors and implementing partners to regularly assess progress and identify obstacles as well as agree on next steps.
    3. To continue emphasizing transparency of the process as well as consultation with and active participation of IDPs and other relevant stakeholders at each stage of the Action Plan’s implementation in order to create the necessary degree of ownership.
    4. To continue close cooperation with civil society as implementing partners.
    5. To place equal importance on the facilitation of urban integration as is given to return to rural areas, for those persons among the displaced who choose to re-build their lives in urban areas.
  1. To the Government of Turkey:
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    1. To dedicate, in its next budget, additional resources beyond the considerable means already provided, and to seek the support of the international community for further funding.
    2. To encourage and facilitate the elaboration and adoption of similar IDP action plans in the other provinces of Southeastern Turkey.
    3. To establish, at the national level, an IDP unit with sufficient staff and resources to ensure coordination of displacement related activities.
    4. To elaborate a national IDP action plan that builds upon and complements the provincial plans in order to ensure that comprehensive and coordinated activities are undertaken in all affected provinces.
    5. To continue to improve the process of compensating victims on the basis of Law No. 5233 by further capacity building and, where necessary, through amendments to the law, including by giving consideration to the suggestions made by the RSG to the Turkish Government in a letter dated 31 March 2006.
    6. To proactively address security problems that might constitute obstacles to return, including through the removal of landmines and a review of the village guard system, as recommended by the RSG in the same letter.
    7. To make public, without any further delay, the quantitative as well as the qualitative results of the Hacettepe IDP survey in order to assist all relevant actors in basing their planning and implementation activities on a realistic assessment of the situation of IDPs in Turkey.
  1. To Civil Society:

To actively participate in the implementation of the Action Plan and, at the same time, to continue to play the role of constructive but critical observers of the process.

  1. To the Donor Community:

To support and assist the Governorate of Van Province as well as the national authorities in the implementation of the Van Action plan and similar plans that might be adopted in the future, and to complement the resources assigned by the State as needed.

Experience from other countries shows that three elements must be in place for making solutions durable: (i) safety at the place of return or local integration/resettlement, (2) restitution of or compensation for lost property and reconstruction/upgrading of homes; (3) social and economic conditions guaranteeing the sustainability of return, such as availability of and access non-discriminatory access to livelihoods and public services.