UN expert calls for action to improve the lives of Armenias displaced

20 September 2010Armenian authorities need to do more to integrate internally displaced persons (IDPs) into their new communities and help those still living in difficult circumstances, a United Nations human rights expert warned today after visiting the Caucasus country. “Internally displaced persons in Armenia have been forgotten for too long,” said Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s representative on the rights of IDPs. “More should be done to improve the lives of these people who have been displaced for two decades, and this needs a concerted effort by the Government and the international community.”During his two-day visit, which concluded on Saturday, Mr. Kälin met with IDPs from the Dprabak village, and from the Gegharkurnik region. The displaced populations there still face great problems with respect to their economic and social rights, he said. They suffer, in particular, from a lack of adequate housing and limited economic opportunities. While many IDPs in Armenia have integrated well into their new communities, a considerable number still live in difficult circumstances, he said. Others have not been able to return to their homes in the border regions because of a lack of shelter and livelihood opportunities. During the course of his visit, Mr. Kälin met with Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, as well as Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan and the First Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration. He also met with the country’s ombudsman and representatives of both the international community and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Mr. Kälin said he was encouraged by the Government’s envisaged measures to help the displaced return to border villages or to integrate within the villages to which they had been displaced, adding that such initiatives must be supported.“Armenia is in the enviable position of being able to solve its remaining displacement cases and to be taken off the map of countries still hosting internally displaced persons,” he said. “It is imperative that the international community supports the Government in its efforts.” He said such efforts should focus not only on housing, but also on improving social and economic conditions in the border regions – including opportunities for steady household incomes, quality education and prospects for youth. Mr. Kälin stressed that the parties to the conflict and the international community must strengthen their efforts to reach a peace agreement, and that any such agreement must address the human rights of the displaced, including their right to restitution of property or compensation. A Swiss law professor, Mr. Kälin has been the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of IDPs since 2004 and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, reporting to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This is his second visit to Armenia since 2007.

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