The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a UN Refugee Agency, met with National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) IX on 20 December 2022 via Zoom videoconference. The UNHCR team was led by Atty. Maria Ermina Valdeavilla-Gallardo, Head of the UNHCR Philippines Office and Ms. Corazon Lagamayo, Head of UNHCR Cotabato Field Office. On the part of NEDA IX, the team was composed of Regional Director Phlorita A. Ridao, Assistant Regional Director Maria Felicidad R. Guerrero, and Development Research Division Chief Economic Development Specialist Ms. Eleanor M. Reyes.

The meeting discussed the direction of UNHCR in Mindanao by 2023 and onwards, and the proposed priority strategies for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region for inclusion in the Regional Development Plan 2023-2028, the IDP bill as one of the proposed legislative agenda, and participation in the Mindanao Virtual Coordination Platform Meeting to ensure timely response to protection issues and implementation of key activities for displaced persons.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement defines internally displaced persons as persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.

The UNHCR is mandated to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless persons.  The UNHCR’s efforts also seek to support national mechanisms to respond to the protection needs of its persons of concern and to ensure the centrality of protection in all aspects of the humanitarian responses. Among its collaborative efforts are the crafting of Durable Solution Strategy for IDPs, the updating of Protection Strategy for Mindanao, and the Training of Trainers on Protection Mainstreaming and Protection Information Management. The impact of unresolved armed conflict and climate disasters worsened the situation of the protracted IDPs. Addressing these challenges would require collaborative approach among the government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the international communities. (Zeanneville B. Tindoc)

NEDA IX and UNCHR staff