The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, says a significant number of IDPs in Sri Lanka still live in protracted displacement, and tens of thousands others who have returned or have been settled elsewhere in the North live in very precarious conditions and need more durable housing, access to social services, and the creation of livelihood opportunities.

In a statement on his recent visit to Sri Lanka to assess the IDP situation, the UN envoy said that key issues to address include protection of the physical integrity and bodily autonomy of women and girls and their reproductive rights, of children, feasible access to land, and a proportionate balance between justifiable military concerns of national security and freedom of movement and choice of place for IDPs seeking to return to their original places of residence.

He also said that transparent information on plans to release land currently under military control and withdrawal of the military from all civilian functions would help to find durable solutions for people in conflict-affected areas.

“While significant numbers of IDPs secured their residential plots of land, some still need access to their original farmland or fishing areas to sustain their livelihood. Displaced and resettled communities seem to remain vulnerable to recurrent shocks. Their situation is exacerbated by growing food-insecurity and indebtedness in the Northern Province, partly due to the lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities,” Beyani said.

Another critical element, he said, is is creating conditions for IDPs and returnees to get back to normalcy after 30 years of conflict. He noted that peace- building alongside post conflict reconstruction, national reconciliation and healing, making available information on missing relatives, empowering local elected authorities, and ensuring that law enforcement activities are carried out by specially trained police services, are particularly vital to anchoring durable solutions in the long term.

The UN envoy also noted that Government efforts together with humanitarian partners supported the return or settlement in the North and East of the country of over 450,000 IDPs displaced during the conflict. In a period of four years after the end of the conflict in 2009, the Government has made great progress in fostering economic development and building infrastructure, including in those areas the country which bore the brunt of the armed conflict. Demining in return areas, the rebuilding of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and houses, as well as the release of some land to their original owners allowed many IDPs to return and go back to their traditional livelihood of farming and fishing.

Source: Colombo Gazatte – 12.12.2013 – http://colombogazette.com/2013/12/12/un-envoy-notes-shortcomings/