Philippines: UN expert calls for more action to protect displaced people

13 November 2002

The Government of the Philippines has taken welcome strides in promoting democracy and human rights, but must be do more to protect the country's displaced people, a United Nations expert said today.

"The disconnect between national policies and the gap in implementation made the affected populations feel isolated, neglected and alienated, all of which fuelled the general discontent in the region," the Secretary-General's Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng, said at the conclusion of a weeklong visit to the country.

Displacement in the Philippines is largely concentrated in Mindanao, the scene of clashes in 2000 between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That year, more than 300,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Displacement has also reportedly resulted from ongoing anti terrorism operations in some parts of the country, according to Mr. Deng, who met with representatives of both groups, along with UN officials, donor governments and non-governmental organizations.

Mr. Deng pointed out that while responding to the needs of the internally displaced is a high priority, "it must be underscored that the root causes of internal displacement in Mindanao are inherently linked to the status of development and governance in the region." He called for intensified efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully, and noted a "high degree of willingness from both sides in the conflict to continue the search for a long lasting peace."

While in the Philippines, Mr. Deng also held talks with numerous officials, including local authorities in Mindanao, and spoke with community leaders as well as both displaced and resettled families.