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Regime-Induced Displacement as an R2P challenge
Dr. Phil Orchard – Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
APC R2P Brief, Vol. 2 No. 4 (2012)

How do we respond to states that deliberately displace their own populations? Such policies, which I term regime-induced displacement, have become a growing problem for the international community over the past twenty years in countries as diverse as Kosovo, East Timor, and Darfur. This is for three reasons: because RID can blur into ethnic cleansing and genocide, because it transcends a traditional divide between refugees and internally displaced persons, and because the humanitarian response is problematic when people remain targets of their own government. However, both the Protection of Civilians (PoC) agenda and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P) offer ways of providing clear protection to people targeted by their own governments. (…)

(…) The critical issue is that forced displacement is being caused by a deliberate choice on the part of the government or regime in power to displace their own population on a massive scale. This form of displacement, which I call regime-induced displacement (RID), occurs when government or government-sponsored actors use coercive tactics to cause large numbers of their own citizens to flee their homes. (…)

(…) How Does the International Community Respond?

RID poses a unique challenge to the international community and for Australia for three linked reasons. The first is that such acts frequently transition into mass atrocities including ethnic cleansing and genocide, such as in Darfur, East Timor, and Kosovo. As Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng have noted, “when governments become directly involved in uprooting minority populations they often see those they are uprooting not as their citizens but as ‘the other.’ This process of dehumanization enables authorities to more easily explain away the high number of those killed or uprooted.”

Thus, the most extreme cases of RID fall within the bounds of the United Nation’s Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), which establishes that military interventions for human protection purposes are justified to halt or avert either large scale loss of life or large scale ethnic cleansing, whether carried out “by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape,” a view endorsed by the United Nations 2005 World Summit Declaration which expanded the mass atrocities included to encompass war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Second, as Brian Barbour and Brian Gorlick have argued, in the past, the traditional asylum regime offered protection in such cases.

However, most victims of RID are unable to leave their own country. (…) This leads directly to the third, and most critical, issue: a shift in the nature of humanitarian protection. While the number of humanitarian actors who undertake protection activities has grown markedly, their role is problematic in RID situations as they frequently lack the capacity to provide protection to civilians and the displaced who are directly targeted by the state. (…)

(…) What alternatives exist?

Two alternatives exist: the Protection of Civilians (PoC) agenda provides peacekeeping forces with a mandate to protect civilians from such actions, while extreme cases of RID fall within the R2P doctrine. All new peacekeeping missions have been mandated protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. But, these missions tend to be limited. (…)

(…) The R2P doctrine provides a clear alternative: intervention for human protection purposes. Even here, however, the record is mixed. When NATO intervened in Kosovo to protect the Albanian Kosovar population from Serbian aggression, they actually made the displacement crisis worse. In the months of the air campaign, Serb forces were able to displace some 1.3 million Kosovars.

(…) Conclusions

As this briefing has shown, RID introduces difficult policy challenges for the international community: not only does it necessitate more involvement by a plethora of international and non-governmental organizations within countries experiencing mass displacement, but attempts to provide these victims with protection have been used in an ad hoc manner and are rarely successful in the long term. Current responses to situations of RID are ad hoc and remain based on a set of international law and actors ill-suited to provide protection. Further development, however, of both the PoC agenda and of the R2P provide mechanisms to ameliorate these issues.
Read the full policy brief.


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