Placing People at the Centre of Our Response

  • Migrants held at Trik al Seka detention centre in Tripoli, which Mohammed Abdiker visited in March. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) / Leonard Doyle

Day after day, I continue to be struck by the dignity and positivity of people, and their ability to cope, in what is often the direst of circumstances – most recently in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Nigeria. Every person experiences the impact of crises differently, when exposed to risks due to their sex, age, gender identity, ethnicity, and disability; or when enduring the impact of family separation, or the lack of access to resources, among many other hardships. In the last few months alone, I have witnessed the deplorable conditions of detention centers, as well as the many challenges displaced people and refugees face in displacement camps and camp-like settings. I have met with migrants, displaced people and affected communities. I have met women, men, girls and boys. Every single person I have met, continues to demonstrate incredible courage and hope for the future in the face of extreme adversity. I can’t help thinking, however, are we doing enough to address their needs?

The objective of all humanitarian and development actors is to support states to ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld and fulfilled despite a crisis situation. Protection is ultimately ensuring that, despite the crisis context, individuals have the ability and agency to fulfill their rights in accordance with differing characteristics, capacities, needs and aspirations. Increasingly, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance–of which IOM is a member–is committing to placing protection at the centre of every actor’s efforts. Each member builds on its own mandate and vantage point to protect crisis-affected populations.

As an Organization with direct implementation capacity, IOM integrates protection considerations into all of its assistance. Through camp coordination and camp management, the displacement tracking matrix, shelter and settlements programmes, emergency health care and transportation and all other humanitarian, transition and recovery activities, IOM strives to ensure that no one is left behind and that those who are at risk of falling behind are properly assisted and protected. Through its Principles for Humanitarian Action and the recently approved IASC protection policy, the development of which IOM actively supported, IOM is building coherence among its protection activities, and ensuring that its programmes fall in line with international standards, striving for the full participation of those we serve.

From protection from sexual exploitation and abuse to the prevention and response of gender-based violence; from child abuse to land and property reparations; from humanitarian evacuations to resettlement, IOM builds on its strong operational footprint and reaffirms its commitment to placing the protection concerns of all migrants—including internally displaced persons—and of all affected communities at the center of its response.

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By Mohammed Abdiker, Director of Operations and Emergencies for IOM, the UN Migration Agency
Twitter: @AbdikerM