UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The protection and assistance of internally displaced persons and the creation of customary international law Hurst, Lauren


Since the mid-1990s, internally displaced persons have outnumbered refugees 2 to 1 in most emergencies. These are dire statistics, but I have been encouraged by recent response developments: the African Union adopted in October of 2009 the Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Person in Africa, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Pact on Security, Stability and Development, which includes the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons, and which entered into force in June of 2008. These two hard law documents are based on the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which is considered to be a soft law document. With this foundation, my thesis seeks to examine whether these African responses to internal displacement can have an impact outside the continent’s borders through customary international law. I argue that while it is still early to determine the full influence of the Kampala Convention and the Great Lakes Protocol, these two initiatives are indeed legitimate building blocks toward a generally applicable rule of customary international law. We should anticipate growing reference to them, and to the African experience in general, as issues of internal displacement increase in regions across the globe. However, before this normative framework can become binding international law, we will likely need to see more conventionally powerful states also adopt similar Guiding Principles-based initiatives. To support this statement, I outline the hardening process of soft law and the creation process of customary international law, and find that international legal theory suggests that African leadership can indeed initiate global norm development. I also found, however, that the potential of these two African instruments could not be wholly explained by law, and thus turned to international relations’ theory for supporting analysis.

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