The United Nations independent expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons ended his official visit to Azerbaijan with an urgent appeal today for a peaceful settlement to restore the human rights of some 600,000 people who have been displaced for more than two decades.
“It is urgent to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict in order to resolve the protracted situation of internal displacement, which has lasted more than 20 years in Azerbaijan,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani.
The Special Rapporteur also called upon humanitarian and development actors to act jointly and map out concerted actions aimed at ensuring durable solutions.
Mr. Beyani, who visited locations where IDPs live in and around Baku and the western district of Agdam, completed his week-long visit over the weekend. He is scheduled to present his full report to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any Government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
The Special Rapporteur welcomed the significant progress made by the Azerbaijani authorities to improve the living conditions of the population in general and of IDPs in particular, both in rural and urban areas.
He noted with satisfaction that change had taken place since the last visit carried out in 2010 by the previous independent expert, and commended the Government for new efforts and commitment to ensuring respect for the human rights of IDPs.
However, Mr. Beyani called for a rights-based approach that includes IDPs in development planning strategies in the areas of housing, education, health and employment to strengthen their resilience, livelihood opportunities and self-reliance.
“A survey of intent of IDPs should be carried out in order to arrive at sustainable solutions for them,” he said. “Durable solutions for IDPs cannot be achieved without the consultation and participation of IDPs. All durable solutions should remain as options open to them.”
According to the latest statistics posted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 600,000 IDPs in Azerbaijan.
In line with his predecessor’s recommendation, Walter Kaelin who visited Azerbaijan in 2007 and 2010, Mr. Beyani insisted on a comprehensive needs assessment to differentiate the levels of needs of the people displaced for the past 20 years.
“Not all IDPs have the same needs and the only way to ensure that those who require special attention are adequately identified is through such a comprehensive assessment,” he underscored.
With regard to health, he noted that despite the authorities’ efforts to develop an action plan, the mental health assessment performed by the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet been fully been implemented with concrete actions to ensuring more comprehensive health services, including in the area of mental health, and increased deployment of qualified medical staff to rural areas.
During his visit, Mr. Beyani met with Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hassanov; the Ministers Economy and Industry and Health; and the Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labour and Social Protection, and Education. He met with the Deputy President of the State Oil Fund. The expert also held meetings with the Ombudsperson of Azerbaijan, representatives of the international community and non-governmental organizations.