Issue 11 June 2000

A Newsletter of the Ecumenical Network of churches in solidarity with people compelled by severe political, economic and social conditions to leave their land and cultures.

Click to:

International News
News Updates
Network News
Upcoming Meetings
Internet Resources
How to contact WCC International Relations Staff

Uprooted people are those who are forced to leave their communities: those who flee because of persecution and war, those who are forcibly displaced because of environmental devastation and those who are compelled to seek sustenance in a city or abroad because they cannot survive at home... World Council of Churches policy statement, 1995.
Humanitarian Intervention

At the request of WCC’s Central Committee, WCC is involved in a year-long study process on the ethics of so-called "humanitarian intervention". As part of this study process, WCC organized a seminar from 6-8 April 2000 to reflect from an ethical perspective on the responsibility of the international community to protect populations at risk who are within the borders of another state. The seminar brought together people from different regions and different disciplines: international lawyers, ethicists, theologians, representatives of churches and other faith communities, staff of WCC, Lutheran World Federation and Geneva-based humanitarian organizations, and representatives from regions which have been affected - one way or another - by recent intervention. The seminar was chaired by Amb. Bethuel Kiplagat, moderator of the Churches Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) and a number of CCIA Commissioners participated in the meeting.

Planning for the seminar was done in close cooperation with staff of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, the Lutheran World Federation and the Quaker United Nations Office.

Discussion at the seminar was lively, and sometimes difficult, as participants grappled with the complexity of the issue. Most participants were uncomfortable with the term "humanitarian intervention"," given the long tradition of intervention by powerful countries in the internal affairs of weaker ones. There was consensus that the international community - including the churches - has an obligation to prevent conflicts, to resolve conflicts through non-violent means when they do emerge, and to support reconciliation efforts once a peace agreement is at hand. But how should the international community respond when these efforts fail or are inadequate - and when large numbers of people are at risk? Does the international community have a right - or an obligation - to intervene with force when the governments of affected states are unwilling or unable to protect their citizens? f so, in what circumstances? Who should decide? What means of intervention are appropriate?

From an ethical perspective, people of faith have a responsibility to uphold the sacred gift of human life. Some participants argued that the protection of human rights is a universal value which may, when these rights are violated on a massive scale, override national sovereignty. Others noted the Western humanist bias of claims of universal standards of human rights and questioned their relevance in other cultural contexts. And questions were raised about which human rights? Is intervention appropriate only for violations of political and civil rights - even though violations of the economic, cultural and social rights may claim many more lives?

Given the realities of power in today’s world, many participants were uneasy at the prospect of providing any more legitimacy to interventionist intentions of powerful states. Discussion thus centered on how to limit the use of military force in times of humanitarian emergencies. In particular, participants noted that active use of armed observers or police forces would be, in any case, a more effective means of protecting a population at risk than high-altitude bombing. Some participants felt that any decision to use force in protection of populations at risk, with or without the consent of the concerned government, should only be made by the United Nations. Others felt that the present inequitable distribution of power within the United Nations limited the authority of the UN to make such decisions on a strictly humanitarian basis. Others felt strongly that the international community’s ability to intervene should not be held hostage to a single state’s veto power within the Security Council and that regional organizations - or even individual states - might be justified in intervening in some critical situations. At the same time, there was concern that bypassing the United Nations would lead to a further weakening of international law and multilateral institutions - which have long been supported by the churches.

The seminar was successful in lifting up the wide range of viewpoints on the issue of humanitarian intervention and in reflecting on the complexities and contradictions inherent in the question of what is the appropriate response by the international community to situations where populations are at risk and the government is either unable or unwilling to respond. The seminar thus provides rich insights for the policy document which will be drafted, widely circulated, re-drafted and eventually presented to the WCC Central Committee in January 2001. A report of the seminar is available from WCC (


Europe: An Area of Peace, Security and Justice?

This seminar, organized by the International Catholic Migration Commission, Franciscans International and Dominicans for Peace and Justice, met from 10-11 April 2000 at the UN in Geneva. Representatives from many NGOs discussed their work with migrants, and in particular with trafficked women.

Despite the Treaty of Amsterdam, there has been a failure on the part of most EU governments to give all refugees the status demanded by the Geneva Convention. In many states, benefits for immigrants have been removed and Kurdish and Kosovar refugees are not regarded as political refugees, and so are often denied asylum. It is estimated that there are 138 million people worldwide living outside their country of origin, but there has been a backlash against immigrants, who are used as a scapegoat for crime and unemployment. The trafficking of women has become organized international crime worth billions of dollars, made more attractive than drugs or arms smuggling due to the lack of legislation in this area.

Participants demanded that the EU recognize its responsibility towards refugees and that its policies be gender-sensitive and child-centered. Detailed legislation and more sympathetic treatment from the police is necessary to deal with the problem of trafficking. A web-site was suggested as a means to share future information and it was hoped the World Conference on Racism, to be held in South Africa in 2001, would address the rights of migrants.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports on Africa and CASWANAME

At its March Standing Committee meeting, UNHCR reported on operations in Africa and in Central and South-West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. atters of particular interest included the report on the situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa, which remains tense despite the signature of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo. owever the appointments of President Masire to head the dialogue intercongolais, and of former President Mandela as peace mediator for Burundi, are positive signs for future peace. In 2000 UNHCR aims to take advantage of the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between the Sudan and Eritrea to repatriate some 140,000 Eritrean refugees from the Sudan. It also aims to continue with the repatriation of Liberian refugees, adding to the 342,000 who have returned to Liberia since May 1997.

In terms of the CASWANAME region, the UNHCR tried to provide increased protection and resettlement opportunities for refugees in 1999, despite obstacles caused by continuing conflict and political constraints. The Memorandum of Understanding on the Joint Program for the Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan Refugees was signed on 14 February 2000 by UNHCR and the Islamic Republic of Iran, based on principles of voluntary repatriation and of continued protection of those Afghans who cannot at present return. It was concluded that there was a need to enhance the presence of UNHCR in most of the countries of the region in view of the interest expressed by governments, notably in the promotion of refugee law and in training programs for government officials.

UNHCR "Reach Out" Meeting

UNHCR convened a meeting with 34 African humanitarian and human rights NGOs in Nairobi from 10-11 April to focus on strengthening refugee protection. This meeting, part of UNHCR’s "Reach Out" process to NGOs, sought to explore ways by which NGO-UNHCR collaboration could be strengthened in the field of protection.

Child Protection Advisors

The Office of the Special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG/CAC), UNICEF and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) have announced a new dimension to UN peacekeeping operations: the deployment of Child Protection Advisors (CPAs). Their role is to advise the relevant peacekeeping operations and, under the overall authority of the OSRSG, to coordinate with relevant UN agencies, NGOs and national authorities to ensure that children’s issues are incorporated fully into all relevant peacekeeping and peace-building policies and programs. CPAs will also work to ensure that all personnel involved in UN peacekeeping operations have appropriate training on the protection of children’s rights. The first Child Protection Advisor has assumed her position with the UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone, and CPAs have also been appointed to serve with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


In April, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introduced a new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which is intended to "curb criminal abuse of the immigration and refugee systems while expanding policies to attract the world’s best and brightest to Canada". The legislation would create severe penalties - fines up to $1 million and life in prisoner for those convicted of trafficking. The legislation also consolidates several current steps and protection criteria into a single decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board and by combining increased use of single-member panels with an internal paper appeal at the Board.

On 28 February 2000 the UN World Food Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern over dramatic funding shortfalls for humanitarian operations in Africa and appealed to the donor community for help. A rise in the number of refugees has led to a shortfall of 36 percent for food assistance to refugees in 16 African countries where the two UN agencies collaborate on humanitarian activities. The largest funding problem is in Tanzania, where by July WFP will be unable to feed some 525,000 people unless contributions are received immediately. Kenya, Guinea and Zambia also have large shortfalls. The number of refugees WFP expects to assist with food aid in the 16 African countries in 2000 is expected to rise from 1.9 million to 2,065,000. More recently, UNHCR announced on 8 May 2000 that it is facing serious financial problems and is expecting a shortfall of nearly US$150 million this year.

The Canadian government announced in February that the "head tax" for refugees will be rescinded. This is an issue on which churches and Canadian NGOs have played an important advocacy role.

SHAPE (NATO: Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe) held a conference on civil-military cooperation on 1 February 2000, which preceded 3 days of working groups to begin the creation of a doctrine on Civil-Military Cooperation (CMC). he conference dealt with the issues relating to establishing more formal procedures for civil-military cooperation in disaster and post-conflict environments. CMC is defined as the resources and arrangements which support the relationship between NATO commanders, the national authorities and the civil populations in an area where NATO military forces are employed. It was recommended that the CMC function should be holistic, and not just seen as "combat-support"; military assets should only be used for disaster-response when civil assets are overwhelmed and cannot meet the need; and the focus should be on cooperation with the civil authorities. There needs to be a clear definition of the responsibilities of the different actors, while simultaneously maintaining the flexibility to respond to a changing environment. Authority must eventually be handed over to civilian authorities.

Caritas-Europe and Aprodev organized a workshop on 8 May on The role of the military and the role of humanitarian aid organizations in emergencies in which representatives of church-related NGOs, NATO, and European Union institutions came together to reflect on civil-military cooperation. Discussion was rooted in the experience of NATO involvement in humanitarian operations during the Kosovo crisis and sought to reflect on future possibilities and limitations of working with the military in humanitarian crises.

After the successful completion of Phases I and II of the Humanitarian Ombudsman Project, a meeting was convened on 16 March, in Geneva, to discuss the future directives of this initiative. Many participants objected to the potential role of the Ombudsman as a policing mechanism for Sphere standards. It was argued that issues of political and organizational relations had not been sufficiently considered. Concern was expressed that the function may become overly bureaucratic and financially unstable. It was agreed that the project should aim to provide an independent mechanism with primary focus on listening to, and representing, the voice of intended beneficiaries and the affected population. The project should not act as a policing mechanism for any existing codes and standards. Two possible types of mechanism were identified for pilot testing in a third phase: the "Ombudsman-type" mechanism, with emphasis on listening to and responding to concerns of individual beneficiaries whilst in the field; and the "People’s Advocate" mechanism, with emphasis on canvassing the views of the affected population and representing broad issues of concern to decision makers within the humanitarian community.

Refugee issues in South-Eastern Europe: Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future was held 2-4 April 2000, in Sofia, Bulgaria, organized by the ECRE/ ICVA Reference Group on former Yugoslavia. Among topics for debate were Roma issues, trafficking issues and the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. NGO and IGO representatives shared their experiences of working with refugees and internally displaced people and discussed their future role in this region.

Reports from Australia are that 7112 applications for asylum in Australia were received in the financial year 1999-2000, as opposed to 8279 lodged 1998-99. 6319 protection visas were finalized, of these 1557 were grants comprising 1236 Permanent Visas and 221 Temporary Protection Visas. 1565 applications were lodged by unauthorized boat arrivals, but only 449 Permanent Visas were granted. As of 8 March 2000, there were 3682 migrants in detention in Australia, including 30 unaccompanied children from 12 to 17 years.


Four members of the South African Churches in Ministry with Uprooted People visited Madagascar from 26 March to 1 April 2000 to learn about the need for international aid in light of the recent cyclone damage and to talk with church leaders. Since January, Madagascar has suffered 3 serious cyclones, resulting in death, homelessness and disease. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the Indian Ocean countries were preparing to establish for the first time a rapid response system to deal with national calamities. However the real problem in Madagascar was identified, not as these disasters, but the extreme poverty in which the majority of its citizens live, made worse by the international debt burden. Church leaders spoke of their desire to play a more active role in the common life of the church in the southern Africa region.

The Inter Religious Council in Sierra Leone issued a press statement on 17 February 2000 expressing concern about the present state of the peace process in Sierra Leone. IRCSL applauded the general cessation of hostilities and the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement, but condemned the "deliberate attempts to derail the disarmament process". he Council called for the immediate return of all arms seized from UN peacekeepers; an end to hindrance of the UN’s work; the release of all abductees and child soldiers; and for the President of the Republic, Alhaji Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, to provide the required leadership for the realization of lasting peace. Since then, of course, the situation has deteriorated dramatically in Sierra Leone with major challenges to the ability of UN peacekeeping troops to carry out their mandate in the country and with the evacuation of most international staff. The Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone issued a statement in early May, calling for the international community to support the UN peacekeeping efforts and to continue to support the peace process in the country.

As part of the All Africa Conference of Churches 2000 Refugee and Emergency Activities Plan, the Southern Africa Core Group met in late March 2000 for member churches to discuss and review the progress they have made over the last year and to look at areas of concern to be addressed.

A meeting was held in Lome, Togo from 11-14 April 2000 for church leaders from Central Africa, to democratically elect a moderator for the region and to choose a neutral point of operation so that the region can enjoy autonomy like other regions. The meeting was also intended to enhance unity and raise the demands of the Gospel especially in the area of uprooted peoples.

The West Africa regional meeting on uprooted people will take place 19-22 June 2000 in Lome, Togo. It will be an opportunity for collective dialogue between church leaders on major issues facing uprooted people, for reflection on progress made and for considerations on future funding.

The East Africa regional meeting will meet 28-31 August 2000 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting will look at the relationship between the churches and the continued conflicts in the Great Lakes region and seek to come up with clear forms of interventions in the form of advocacy, emergency response, coordination, regional liaison and networking with the various AACC regional structures.

A new alliance of religious, human rights, ethnic organizations and academics, including the National Council of Churches in Australia, has been formed in Victoria, to raise for public discussion the continued fostering of fear and hysteria regarding new arrivals in Australia. Asylum seekers are perceived as "illegals" despite the fact that people in need of protection from persecution have the right to seek it in Australia and regularise their status by applying for refugee status.

The Evangelical Academy at Mülheim in cooperation with Caritas-Germany organized a conference on Undocumented Refugees in Western Europe from 5-7 May. The conference brought together about 150 participants from Western Europe to wrestle with the difficult political, social, economic and ethical questions surrounding undocumented migrants. The particular concerns of undocumented migrants in Germany - who have no access to education or health care - were raised.


Beyond Impunity is a new book by Geneviève Jacques which explores the complex issues around reconciliation, truth, justice, repentance, memory and impunity. Available from WCC Publications for Sfr. 9.90 or US$6.50 (plus 25% postage), PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.

The Sphere Project that promotes a new "Humanitarian Charter & Minimum Standards in Disaster Response" has published its revised-2000 book on the web: The Sphere project grew out of collaboration among NGOs through the Geneva-based consortium of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response. The Sphere standards are a comprehensive set of guidelines for NGOs to explain, root and harmonize their work.

"Responding to Emergencies and Fostering Development: The Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid", originally published by Urgence-Rehabilitation-Development Group, has been re-issued with support from ICRC and the Geneva Foundation for Health in War. The authors review different types of humanitarian crises, mixing proposals on issues such as monitoring and evaluation, with case studies from groups such as GRET, ICRC, ACORD, OAP and MSF (edited by Pirotte, Husson & Grunewald, London: Zed Books, 1999)

The WorldWatch Institute has released its annual focus on trends of concern both to people and to biodiversity. "State of the World 2000" included chapters on malnutrition, persistent organic pollutants, information technology, global trade, employment and ecology. Editor Leslie Brown summarizes a number of environmental/resource trends, such as: "In India, water pumped from underground far exceeds aquifer recharge. Unless New Delhi can devise an effective strategy to deal with water scarcity, India like Africa will soon face a decline in life expectancy." (NY: WW Norton & Company)

The Relief and Rehabilitation Network (RRN) has been renamed the Humanitarian Practice Network, or HPN, as of 1st April 2000. This is more in line with the scope and focus of the Network which produces information, analysis and practical resources not only on "relief and rehabilitation", but on wider aspects of conflict management, disaster prevention, relief and development linkages, humanitarian policy initiatives and protection. The main purpose of the HPN will be to advance the professional development of those in and around humanitarian action, and to improve practice. It will publish Good Practice Reviews, Network Papers and newsletters and will operate a resources website. The new HPN website address will be

The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project based in Florence, Arizona, is distributing "Si, Se Puede! You Can Do It! How to Help Yourself in Your Immigration Case!" It is a 16 page mini-motivational manual in simple English and Spanish, helping immigration detainees in the US to make informed decisions over whether to pursue their asylum and other claims to relief from removal, and to support them through the legal process. To order the English and Spanish versions of the manual, along with a theoretical blueprint for practitioners on integrating client empowerment considerations into their approach, email Ms. Della Burke, Office Manager, on and send $20 to the Florence Project, P.O. Box 654, Florence, AZ 85232.

The Human Rights Documentation Unit and the Burmese Women’s Unit have published Cycle of Suffering, a report on the situation for migrant women workers from Burma in Thailand, and violations of their human rights. For political reasons, or due to escape economic hardship, many undocumented Burmese migrate to Thailand and undertake dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs. A significant proportion of these migrants are women, and this report highlights the pull and push factors of migrant women from Burma into Thailand, their situation in the workplace, and the detention and deportation process. It concludes that the decision of the Thai government to send workers back to Burma will not solve the problems, rather it is necessary to improve their security and living condition in Burma. (Available from the Human Rights

The Centre for Refugee Studies at York University is offering a Summer Course on Refugee Issues in Toronto from 11-18 June. The course includes panel discussions, case studies, a simulation exercise and lectures from international experts on a wide range of issues. Cost C$750. For furhter information, contact Sharryn Aiken at

The Third Summer Course on Refugees will be held 19-30 June 2000, in Strasbourg, France, organized by the International Institute of Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. It is aimed particularly at students of law or social sciences who have completed at least 4 years of university study, members of the legal profession, civil servants, and members of NGOs. Knowledge of French is essential. The course will look at universal, regional and thematic approaches to the problem of asylum. For information on how to apply: Institut International des Droits de L’Homme - 2, allée René Cassin - 67 000 Strasbourg (France)

The Jesuit Refugee Service and Deusto University’s Pedro Arrupe Institute of Human Rights are inviting applications for the Pedro Arrupe Tutorship 2000 at Deusto University. The Tutor will be engaged in research, teaching and consultancy activities concerning refugees and forced migration for Church bodies, NGOs and governments. For further information or to submit an application, contact International Director, Jesuir Refugee Service, C.P. 6139, 00195 Roma Prati, Italy. Closing date for applications is 31 July 2000.

The Immigration Detention Guidelines were launched on Saturday 25 March by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of the Australian government. They can be found on their website:


The ECRE Biannual General Meeting will be held in Paris, France on 12-14 May 2000, specifically to discuss "Refugees in Europe: Campaigning, Public Awareness and the Media".

The Pax Christi Youth Forum will hold a seminar entitled "Migrant Realities; Integration and Preservation of Cultures" from 25 April to 1 May 2000 in Lisbon, Portugal, designed for young adults aged 18 to 30. The purpose will be to give background knowledge in how international and European bodies react to the changing nature of migration, as well as providing opportunities to meet with local migrant groups.


The resources available from the Internet on refugee and migration issues are extraordinary. The sections below provide a listing of some of the most useful websites. Please share with us those internet websites which you have found most useful.

NGO and unofficial humanitarian websites

AAAS Directory of Human Rights Sites on the Internet
This directory of the American Association for the Advancement of Science provides descriptions of and links to 100s of human rights organizations on the web.

Details of humanitarian issues and ACTIONAID campaigns.

Amnesty International
Gives world news items on human rights, details of AI’s campaigns and access to reports and documents.

Canadian Human Rights Foundation
Contains information on their programs, publications and activities as well as links to other sites arranged thematically.

CARE programs and job opportunities are specified. It is possible to visit the newsroom, the bookshop or take a virtual field trip.

Center for Immigration Studies
The Center operates two free email information services on immigration policy, in the US and abroad.

CISNEWS is a daily list of news items/announcements/reviews. To subscribe go to:

This Week in Immigration is a weekly roundup of immigration news. To subscribe:

Children’s Aid Direct
Press releases, details of fund-raising activities and campaigns.

European Council on Refugees and Exiles
Contains information about uprooted people in Europe.

Human Rights Internet
Provides information about human rights issues, forthcoming meetings and calendar events. It is also possible to submit your own calendar event and access a directory of related websites and the bookshop.

Human Rights Watch
Presents the background and latest news on human rights, gives details of HRW campaigns and publications.

Human Rights Web Resources Page
Provides links to related sites, lists of organizations and resources, and information on human rights and abuses.

International Committee of the Red Cross
Press releases and weekly news about the organization.

International Peace Bureau (IPB)
Gives data on the organization’s activities and publications.

Information on the activities of the humanitarian organization providing medical aid in emergencies around the world.

News on humanitarian concerns, the organization and its campaigns.


"Serving the information needs of the humanitarian relief community". Latest world news, resources and links to other web sites.

Save the Children
Supplies information about Save the Children campaigns and global events.

The Humanitarian Times
The Humanitarian Times is a free e-mail publication available to all NGOs, a periodical devoted to balanced coverage of humanitarian concerns. To subscribe, email

War Child
History, aims and projects of the organization.

World Council of Churches (WCC)
Access to WCC resources and linked ecumenical websites.

Inter-governmental Organizations:
The following are official websites detailing the activities of inter-governmental bodies:

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)

World Food Programme (WFP)

World Health Organization (WHO)

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Council of Europe

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

Pan American Health Organization

European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO)

Governmental resources:
The following are official websites detailing the activities of government agencies:

British Department for International Development

German Technical Cooperation

Japan International Cooperation Agency

US Agency for International Development

Beginning in January 2001, Uprooted People will be distributed primarily through e-mail and will be available (as it is presently) on the WCC website. Copies will still be mailed to church partners who do not have e-mail or Internet access. Please print out, complete and return the form below by 1 December - or send an e-mail message with uprooted people in the subject line to - to ensure your continued subscription.


E-mail address:

I do not have access to e-mail. Please send my copy by post to the following address:


Return to E. Ferris, International Relations, WCC, 150 rte de Ferney, PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

Contacting WCC International Relations team

E-mail addresses:
Dwain Epps, coordinator:
Salpy Eskidjian:
Elizabeth Ferris:
Mariette Grange:
Clement John:
Melaku Kifle:
Gail Lerner:

Uprooted People provides coverage of information and action relating to refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. It is published every three months by the International Relations team, World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.
Tel: 41 22 791 6111
Fax: 41 22 791 6122

Editor: Elizabeth Ferris

Articles may be freely reproduced providing that acknowledgement is made to Uprooted People, the publication of the International Relations team, World Council of Churches.

Back to index of Uprooted People issues