Failing the Internally Displaced

The UNDP Displaced Persons Program in Kenya

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Between 1993 and 1995, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administered a program to return an estimated 300,000 persons who were driven off their land by state-sponsored “ethnic” violence. The Kenyan government instigated the violence after being forced to concede to a multiparty system in order to punish and disenfranchise ethnic groups associated with the opposition, while rewarding its supporters with illegally obtained land. Throughout the UNDP program, and since, the government has obstructed efforts to return the displaced to their homes. The government is responsible for harassing the displaced and those who assist them, while allowing the perpetrators of the violence to enjoy complete impunity. In terms of offering effective assistance, protection and reintegration to the thousands of internally displaced Kenyans, the UNDP’s record fell far short of what it could, and should, have been. Ultimately, the manner in which the program was run resulted in the greatest attention being placed on that part of the program that was relatively the easiest and least politically controversial to administer—the relief part—and a neglect of the protection, human rights, and long-term needs of the internally displaced. Failing the Internally Displaced confirms the fundamental importance of incorporating human rights considerations into international programs for the internally displaced, and identifies ways that UNDP, and the United Nations as a whole, can strengthen future implementation.

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