The Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Promoting a Human Rights-based Approach

The Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights hosted the side event on 23 September, 2011, titled “The Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Promoting a Human Rights-based Approach,” to address the timely topic with the intent of promoting an interactive debate that fosters sustainable solutions toward resolution and prevention. H.E. Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lassare, President of the Human Rights Council moderated the panel composed of highly esteemed speakers.
Though each speaker presented distinct methodologies in their field of expertise, the panel unanimously voiced the need for the international community to take responsibility in cooperated prevention efforts in developing countries before an emergency situation, such as that in Somalia, is at hand. 

To put the crisis into a global perspective Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commission for Human Rights, stated that with food prices reaching a record high this past February, the Horn of Africa “bears the brunt of the global food crisis.” Therefore it is the collective duty of the world to provide financial resources for countries in the Horn in effective coordination as well as provide aid that is focused and constructive with the rights holders in mind. She furthered long term prevention measures in order to meet minimum core level of rights (i.e. food supplies, safe drinking water).  Lastly, she urged UN coordination to ensure adequate relief actions  accordingly with the “Do not harm principle.” Taking into account that 1.3 million of Somalian refugees are currently inhabiting Kenya, Mr. Okeyo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the UN Office at Geneva, called for strengthened international commitments and reaffirmed that basic Human Rights are the first step towards stability in the region. For Dr. Shamsul Bari, Independent expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia, the crisis was not a surprise. Unfortunately his repeated warnings of the drought went unheard. Dr. Bari claims that the crisis is not natural, rather is manufactured. A crisis “manufactured by lack of obligation” of the state and lack of drought preparation. Countries who commit to finance a country then stop funding are also largely to blame for the situation in Somalia. Finally, Mr. Raouf Mazou (UNHCR Director for the East and Horn of Africa) and  Ms Aimee Ansari (OXFAM International) addressed the issue of internal displacement and the humanitarian response to the food crisis. Across the panel speakers echoed their remorse that the international community should not have allowed the Horn of Africa arrive at the catastrophe at which it is currently confronted. Ambassadors, industry experts and humanitarian workers present beckoned for internationally solidarity in producing long-term concrete actions to be taken to prevent such a crisis from repeating.