A series of consultations, under the technical support and guidance of UNDP and UNHCR, took place in Abuja, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. These discussions, initiated based on a request by the Resident Coordinator (RC) during his recent visit to North-East Nigeria, were aimed at supporting the development of a durable solutions strategy for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria by the Boko Haram insurgency. In the Nigerian context, solutions for IDPs and returning refugees is broadly understood to encompass voluntary return to places of origin, local integration in areas of displacement or resettlement in another location in the country.
Durable Solutions for displacement
Durable solutions for IDPs and returning refugees is broadly understood to encompass 3 options: (i) voluntary return to places of origin, (ii) local integration in areas of displacement or (iii) resettlement in another location. Resolving displacement is a collective responsibility requiring a joint and coherent strategy combining interventions across the humanitarian-development nexus in the areas of security and protection, livelihoods and economic recovery, governance and social cohesion.
The strategy encourages all actors to capitalize on the wealth of capacities existing within displaced communities to identify short, medium and longer term solutions to the complex array of issues they face, and to maximize and enhance the knowledge and expertise of national NGOs and other civil society actors in taking forward humanitarian and development work in North-East Nigeria. It also considers the needs and capacities of host communities who have been affected by the Boko Haram violence in the North-East. It also has, at its center, the protection of civilians and reflects the specific needs and realities of women, men, girls and boys of different backgrounds who are particularly marginalized and excluded.
Towards a New Way of Working
In the World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul in May 2016, key stakeholders including member states, UN agencies and NGOs committed to adopt a shift of mindset to bridge the humanitarian-development divide. They committed not only to leave no-one behind and respond to humanitarian needs, but also to reduce them by addressing causes of crises. The Summit called for a New Way of Working where humanitarian and development actors including donors could work together through joint analysis, joint planning, joint coordination, collective outcomes, and multi-year planning. This engagement strategy for the North East is a voluntary move towards the application of the New Way of Working in Nigeria.
The strategy in Nigeria will be aligned on the 2016 Buhari Plan developed by the President Committee for the North East Initiative (PCNI), contributing in particular to its second priority intervention on Rehabilitation, Relocation & Resettlement2. It will also establish linkages with to other Nigeria-specific programme and policy frameworks, including the Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment (RPBA)3 and its follow-up action plans, the
2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN Development Assistance Framework, and the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. The strategy also draws on lessons-learnt from other countries, recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms and principles enshrined in international and regional legal and policy instruments such as the Kampala Convention, the UN Guiding Principles, IASC Framework on Durable Solutions and the Secretary General’s Decision on Durable Solutions. Finally, the strategy is underpinned by the commitments made by the Governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger at the Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin held in Abuja in June 2016, as set out in the Abuja Action Statement.
The search for solutions to displacement in North-East Nigeria is taking place against the backdrop of an environment which presents both opportunities and risks. Surveys carried out with Nigerian IDPs and refugees in Cameroon show that many are prepared to return to their places of origin within Local Government Areas (LGAs) when essential conditions are in place. Security and access to services, unsurprisingly, are universally cited by both IDPs as well as refugees in neighboring countries as the key issues which must be addressed to facilitate their returns. The vast majority of IDPs, estimated to be some 75%, live in host communities, while a smaller number, estimated to be some 25%, live in camps scattered across the North East. Over the past several months a number of main LGA town centers have been recovered by the military and in several of these locations groups of IDPs and refugees are spontaneously relocating, establishing makeshift settlements in proximity to areas where security forces have established a fixed presence. Despite recent improvements in access in Borno State, particularly to some LGA headquarters, access to many of these areas remains tenuous and territory beyond these militarized centers remains, for the most part, inaccessible for reasons of security. Boko Haram attacks on military outposts and convoys, as well as suicide attacks, including on civilian targets, remain frequent occurrences in Borno State.
Despite the aforementioned risks, it is imperative for humanitarian and development actors to jointly plan and implement interventions which contribute to government efforts to create an environment for solutions. Whereas several North-Eastern states and neighboring countries are affected by the crisis, the geographical scope of this strategy will be limited to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, where the main impact of the conflict has been felt4. These are also the areas recognized as most affected by the authorities and covered by the proclamation of the state of emergency. While some elements of an overarching recovery and reconstruction effort may apply to all states, it is imperative that the case-by case nature of displacement, return movement and local capacity inform states-specific programs.