The PRM Quarterly|
Letter from Julia Taft, Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
U.S. Department of State, April 25, 2000
Dear Friend of PRM:
A major conference on regional migration and a White House event on international family planning were highlights of the last 3 months. In this edition of our informal PRM Quarterly I'll comment on these and other activities. I'll also bring you up to date on some of the innovations we have put in place to better explain our mission to Americans and people around the world.
Refugees, Conflict Victims, and Other Persons of Concern
Kosovo: We are keeping a close eye on the return of refugees to Kosovo. We are urging all host countries to take into account the fragile economic and social conditions that still exist there and the capacity of the province to absorb returnees without severe hardship. Of the more than 14,000 who were given asylum in the U.S., as of April 12, 2000, 3,159 have returned. The deadline for Kosovar refugees in the U. S. to register to return under the U.S. Government's special refugee travel loan program is May 1, 2000.
Northern Caucasus: On Feb. 29, 2000 the U.S. Government, through PRM, provided $2.4 million to help fund Red Cross efforts in the North Caucasus region. This was our response to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) emergency appeal to fund food, non-food, medical, water, and sanitation needs, emergency winter assistance, and rehabilitation programs for some 150,000 displaced persons affected by the conflict in Chechnya. The money also will fund activities by the ICRC to help people at risk and detainees. In addition, we plan to provide UN relief agencies with an additional $3.3 million to fund their operations in the Northern Caucasus through June 30, 2000. On April 18, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' 48th relief convoy arrived in Nazran, Ingushetiya, with 19 truckloads of food. The U.S. Government is deeply concerned about the welfare of the estimated 290,000 people displaced by the conflict.
Colombia: In February, I traveled to Bogota with a delegation led by Under Secretary Pickering to consult with Colombian Government authorities, NGOs, and international organizations on Plan Colombia, the Colombian Government's plan for peace, prosperity, and the strengthening of the state after almost 40 years of internal conflict. PRM and USAID are coordinating closely in planning assistance to current internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those who may be displaced by drug crop eradication efforts and conflict. We are awaiting approval of a $1.6 billion congressional supplemental for U.S. Government support of this effort, a portion of which will be directed toward addressing the needs of IDPs.
Sudan: PRM is closely monitoring this complex humanitarian situation and the potential for still more refugee flows. We have recently seen increases in new arrivals in Uganda and Kenya. We are consulting with other donors as well as with our international organization and NGO partners. The European Commission, in particular, has decided to suspend humanitarian funding in southern Sudan as it believes that basic humanitarian principles of impartial access do not pertain at present. Eleven NGOs were forced to leave Sudan when the March 1, 2000 deadline passed and they had not signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) governing NGO activities as required by Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) leader John Garang. USAID continues to fund NGOs in southern Sudan that signed the MOU, but we are respecting the decision of those that refused by not replacing their programs. Most of those that did not sign are seeking to negotiate re-establishment of their programs with the SPLM.
Sierra Leone: On March 27, I took part in the donor's meeting in London to elicit contributions for Sierra Leone's transition to peace and recovery. The meeting was a success in terms of additional funds pledged -- about $65 million total. The U.S. Government pledged $12 million to support the Trust Fund for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, as well as elections, human rights, and the repatriation/reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa: With USAID and the European Union, PRM is working to avert the looming food crisis in Ethiopia in particular and the Horn in general. Our concerns are deep seated in view of the 400,000 refugees in Ethiopia from Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and Djibouti. Already separated from traditional food sources and community support systems, those in the camps are among the most vulnerable to the consequences of the drought.
Timor: By mid-April, refugee returns to East Timor had reached 160,000. Armed militia has made more than 15 incursions into East Timor since February, prompting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international community to submit a formal protest in Jakarta. UNHCR expects to complete its census of the remaining East Timorese population by the end of May. We are working with UNHCR to fashion an end-game strategy with a durable solution for the refugees and displaced persons in West Timor.
International Red Cross
Last week, the Joint Working Group of 16 states and the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent endorsed a proposal of the ICRC to secure recognition of the Israeli national society, the "Magen David Adom." PRM Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary Alan Kreczko was part of the U.S. Government delegation. On April 13-14, the Joint Working Group agreed on the proposal put forth by the ICRC to add a third protocol to the 1949 Geneva Convention to authorize a third, neutral emblem -- a red diamond -- and to amend the Statutes of the Red Cross Movement. To make this happen, it will be necessary to convene an international conference of States Parties to the Geneva Convention to adopt a new protocol. Another conference of governments and Red Cross/Red Crescent societies will have to be convened before the end of 2000 to amend the Statutes.
Regional Conference On Migration
The fifth annual meeting of the Regional Conference on Migration in North and Central America (RCM), also known as the "Puebla Process," met March 20-24 in Washington, DC. INS Commissioner Doris Meissner and I jointly chaired the vice-ministerial meeting that brought together high-ranking officials from Mexico, Central America, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. The vice-ministers reaffirmed their political support for the Puebla Process and its importance as a forum for discussion of common migration challenges. They agreed on a number of future seminars and the need to develop a plan of action for the future that consolidates and focuses the increasingly wide range of migration activities undertaken under the RCM banner. We were particularly pleased with the extensive involvement of the non-governmental community in this year's meeting. The Regional Network of Civic Organizations for Migration organized a parallel NGO meeting and presented a thoughtful proposal on establishing minimum standards for detention and deportation.
One of the most tangible results of the conference was the establishment of a virtual secretariat, using the Internet to serve as a database and facilitate communication among member states. El Salvador, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico were immensely helpful in realizing this project. The U.S. provided funding for computer hardware, software, and training. This network makes use of the latest technology to address the migration challenges facing our hemisphere in the new millennium.
Our bureau was integrally involved in the very successful White House World Health Day event on April 7, "Saving Women's Lives; Protecting Women's Health." It focused attention on the importance of international family planning, and featured remarks by President Clinton, Secretary Albright, Nigeria Centre for Development and Population Activities Director, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, and U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jim Greenwood. All the speakers stressed the need for a restoration of U.S. international population assistance to FY 1995 levels, without the restrictions placed on that assistance by Congress this year. President Clinton summed it up in saying: "When would we ever accept rules telling Americans at home not even to discuss women's health and women's choices? And how, in the name of democracy and freedom, can we impose those rules on others which would be illegal here in the United States."
Secretary Albright, who has been working pointedly on this issue since November, took her own strong remarks from the White House to the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee the following week, where she asked for the committee's support for "full funding, without any unrelated restrictions" for international family planning. And she reiterated this request in her Earth Day remarks at the National Defense University.
Information and Technology Improvements
PRM's homepage on the Department of State Web site is Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. This page is aimed at U.S. audiences.
These innovations are among the new approaches that we are using to meet the rapidly growing challenges of globalization. I hope you'll find them useful.
Julia V. Taft,
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