27 August, 2002. At the invitation of the Government of Mexico, the Representative
of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons,
Dr. Francis M. Deng, undertook a mission to Mexico between the 18th and
28th of August, 2002.
The objective of the mission was to obtain outstand information towards
a better understanding of the situation of internal displacement in the
country, including through field visits and meetings with displaced populations,
to enter into constructive dialogue with the Government, civil society,
the U.N. country team and other international partners, and to access opportunities
for enhanced national and international response to the plight of the internally
displaced in the country.
The Representative met with Federal, State, and Municipal authorities, including
Lic. Santiago Creel, Secretary of the Interior; Lic. Jorge Castañeda,
Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Sra. Mariclaire Acosta, Under-Secretary for
Human Rights from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Lic. Antonio Sanchez
Diaz, Under-Secretary for Social and Human Development from the Social Development
Secretariat; Mtro. Lorenzo Gomez Morin, Under-Secretary of Education from
the Secretariat of Public Education; Dip. Jose Elias Moreno Apis, President,
Human Rights and Justice Commission of the Senate and several members of
both Chambers of Congress; General Brigadier Salvador Cienfuegos Cepeda
from the Ministry of Defense and other high ranking officers, Dr. Rodolfo
Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the
Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People;
Mr. Luis H. Alvarez, Peace and Reconciliation Commissioner in Chiapas; Lic.
Huberto Aldaz Hernandez, Director General of the National Indigenous Institute.
He also visited the State of Chiapas where he met with Lic. Pablo Salazar
Mendiguchia, State Governor of Chiapas; Lic. Emilio Zebadua Gonzalez, General
Government Secretary; Lic. Pedro Raul Lopez Hernandez, President of the
State Human Rights Commission; Mtro. Juan Gonzalez Esponda, Reconciliation
Commissioner for the Communities in conflict in the state of Chiapas. He
also met with community representatives and displaced populations and visited
the communities of Polho and Los Chorros (municipality of Chenalho), and
with General Carrillo Cabran at the army base near Los Chorros. In Chilpancingo,
Guerrero, the Representative met with the State Secretary of the Interior,
the State Attorney General and other senior officials, as well as with the
President of the State Human Rights Commission, and representatives of displaced
During the mission, the Representative also met with the UN country team
and agencies, representatives of the donor community and NGOs.
The Representative of the Secretary-General regrets that he was unable,
for logistical reasons, to visit the communities of San Marcos (Municipality
of Salto de Agua) and Tila as originally planned.
Although instances of displacement for a variety of reasons have occurred
in Mexico for decades, including in the states of Oaxaca, Tabasco and
Sinaloa, current displacement is largely concentrated in the state of
Chiapas and is mostly attributed to the 1994 Zapatista uprising, the 1995
counter-insurgency operations by the military, the 1997 massacre in the
village of Acteal by paramilitary groups, on-going harassment and intimidation
by groups described by some as paramilitary and by the Government and
others as armed civilian and criminal elements, acts of religions intolerance
by extremist groups, disputes over land and drug trafficking.
While the Representative had been hoping to visit Mexico for the last
several years, the timing of the invitation from the new Government and
of the mission were quite opportune. The Federal, State and Municipal
authorities all assured the Representative of the Government's commitment
to effectively addressing the problem of internal displacement in the
country. At the same time, the findings of the field visits to the displaced
communities indicate that protection and assistance problems prevail.
The gap between the stated intentions of the Government and the needs
of the internally displaced on the ground can, at least in part, be explained
in terms of the time factor, since the Government is still in the process
of formulating its policy and operational strategies. A significant factor
in this gap is the Government's lack of access to areas under the control
of the Zapatistas, who persistently reject any Government assistance.
As evidence of the positive intentions of the Government, the Representative
was informed of a Task Force which had been formed as part of the preparations
for the mission and which had visited Chiapas, the state most affected
by internal displacement. During discussions with Federal, State and Municipal
authorities, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations,
as well as with the displaced populations, the U.N. Guiding Principles
on Internal Displacement were widely cited as a basis for the development
of policies and operational programmes in response to the needs of the
internally displaced for protection and assistance, as well as for their
voluntary return in safety and dignity.
The fact that the policy of the Government on internal displacement is
in the process of being developed, and, therefore, still unknown to the
representatives of the international community, accounts for the absence
of international cooperation with the Government in addressing the problem.
The United Nations has adopted the collaborative approach within the framework
of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, under the coordination of the
Emergency Relief Coordinator, now assisted by the IDP Unit in the Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to ensure that the needs
of the internally displaced are effectively addressed. However, no U.N.
agency is making any direct contribution to meeting the needs of displaced
populations. Indeed, the only international organization that is making
any notable contribution to meeting the needs of the internally displaced
is the International Committee of the Red Cross, with its national partner,
the Mexican Red Cross.
In view of the above, the Representative urges the Government to expedite
the formulation of its policy on internal displacement, to establish a
focal point for institutional coordination within the Federal Government
and with the State and Municipal authorities, to make its policy and coordination
structures known to the international community, to request the cooperation
of the United Nations agencies and the international community in collaborative
response to the needs of the displaced, especially in areas not accessible
to the Government, and, to that end, welcome an inter-agency mission under
the auspices of the IDP Unit of OCHA.
Finally, while promoting the peace process is outside the mandate of the
Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons,
and, therefore, outside the objectives of the mission, it goes without
saying that the best remedy to the crisis of internal displacement, would
be the achievement of peace and national reconciliation, which, in turn,
depend on addressing the underlying causes of the conflict.
It was intimated to the Representative by all sides that there is currently
an impasse in the peace process primarily due to the amendments by Congress
to the 1996 San Andres Agreement between the Government and the Zapatistas.
There is a need to break the impasse, restore a degree of functional confidence,
reactivate the peace process, and work towards reconciling differences.
The Representative will elaborate upon the findings of his mission in
a report which will be submitted to the General Assembly and to the Commission
on Human Rights. He will also share the findings of his mission with the
United Nations Secretary-General and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee
which is composed of all the major human rights, humanitarian and development
Dr. Deng has been the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally
Displaced Persons since the position was created by the Commission on
Human Rights in 1992.
For further information, contact Marlene Alejos or Thierry del Prado in
the the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva: tel.
+41 22 917.9280 or 917.9232