It was a great pleasure to attend a panel discussion on the issues of displaced women and finding possible solutions. The event was organized by the United States Institute of Peace and Women’s Regional Network (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India) on 14th September 2016 at the United States Institute of Peace Washington DC.

Humanitarian Impacts of Displacement

Humanitarian impact of Displacement was discussed in the first session, where the panelists included;

  • Rita Marchenda, Research Director, South Asia Forum for Human Rights
  • Joan Timoney, Senior Director of Advocacy and International Relations, Women’s Refugee Commission
  • Kristen Cordel, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning USAID
  • Stephenie Foster, Senior Advisor, and Counselor to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S Department of State

Current Situation

Although there are guidelines and laws to deal with refugees but there are no proper guidelines to deal with the Internal Displacement, in spite of the fact that displaced populations are the most vulnerable people who are forced to flee their houses in a very short notice. The affected people are not treated as people with special needs for assistance. They are just treated as the displaced population of flood or any other emergency situations.

Often there are no prior arrangements made for their transportation and accommodation. The situation is more miserable for the woman-headed families, who often do not possess National Identity Cards and without the National Identity Card cannot access the humanitarian assistance.

Progress So Far

Recently there has been some progress regarding the displaced people, after the World Humanitarian Summit 2016. The Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity calls on global leaders to commit to five core responsibilities in the name of our shared humanity, which are as follows;

  1. Global leadership to prevent and end conflict
  2. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity
  3. Leave no one behind
  4. Change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need
  5. Invest in humanity

The core responsibility 3; Leave no one behind focuses on reaching everyone and empowering all women, men, girls and boys to be agents of positive transformation. It means reducing displacement, supporting refugees and migrants, ending gaps in education.

Legal Perspectives on the Way Forward

Legal Perspectives on the Way Forward was discussed in the second session of the event. The panelist included;

  • Rukhshanda Naz, Former head of UN Women Pakistan (KP-FATA), Executive Director, Legal Aid Awareness Services (LAAS); WRN Tribunal Preparatory Commitment Member
  • Clare Lockhart, Director and Co-Founder, Institute for State Effectiveness
  • Belquis Ahmadi, Senior Program Officer, Asia Centre, USIP
  • Najla Ayubi, Former Deputy Country Representative, Asia Foundation, Afghanistan; WRN Board/Tribunal Preparatory Committee Member

Some of the key points of the discussion are as follows;

Community Conversations were conducted by the Women Regional Network with the displaced women in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan Pakistan, to find out the actual problems of the IDPs. Efforts were made to reach out the voices of the displaced women and connect them with national and international policymakers.  For the first time, it was recognized that 21% of the displaced population was headed by women. It was encouraging to have women as head of households in such a high number in a very conservative and rigid society. For the first time due to the displacement, the women became able to attain their National Identity Cards, i.e. the right to have a legal documented status. It was surprising to see the resilience of the women, who are willing to perform their role in building the society and were even willing to get an education if provided opportunities.

State responsibility in addressing the displacement is very important. Putting the citizen’s voices central is the demand of the time. Community conversation should be a way to make policies. The sovereignty of the State means taking responsibility and provide security as well as meeting the needs of the citizens.  The humanitarian organizations should also utilize the funding with transparency and accountability.

The event concluded with a focus on the access to the voices of the gross root displaced women, state responsibility in preventing and dealing with displacement, policies regarding the displaced people and accountability of the humanitarian organization working to provide humanitarian assistance.

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