Introduction. Human Rights Commission. The Question of Internally Displaced People. Student Officer: Ms. Maria Karesoja

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1 Forum: Issue: Human Rights Commission The Question of Internally Displaced People Student Officer: Ms. Maria Karesoja Position: President of the HRC Introduction Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people, who have been forced to flee their homes to escape armed conflict, generalised violence, human rights abuses or natural or man-made disasters, but have not crossed an international border. 1 The exact number of IDPs is unknown but according to a report by UNHCR 2 there s an estimated 40 million (at the end of 2015) IDPs due to conflict. The number of IDPs due to natural disasters is difficult to estimate as the occurrence of natural disasters is not consistent. There s been an average of 25.4 million new displacements due to natural disasters each year since This research report will only discuss internal displacement caused by violence and conflicts because of the extent of the issue. Even though IDPs and refugees often have very similar reasons to flee their homes, the two should not be confused. IDPs differ from refugees as they do not seek shelter from other countries but stay inside their own states. Unlike refugees who are protected by both international treaties and laws and also by the laws of the host country, IDPs are still under the protection of their own governments, even if that government is the reason behind their displacement. As IDPs are trapped in an internal conflict and are often seen as the enemies of state 4 their situation is in many aspects a lot worse than refugees. Refugees are usually offered food, shelter and protection in the host countries, whereas IDPs are still under their home country s laws and are therefore more vulnerable to violations of human rights. There is no single international body assigned with the protection and assistance of IDPs. What must also be kept in mind is that IDPs can often choose to cross an internationally recognized state border at some point, to seek shelter and protection. At that point forward they are classified as refugees. This shows that the data available can be deceiving: a possible fall in the amount of IDPs does not necessarily indicate an improved situation Research Report Page 1 of 9

2 Definition of Key Terms Internally Displaced Person (IDP) There is no official definition for the term internally displaced person. However in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, IDPs are defined as follows: people who have been forced to flee their homes, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border. 5 Refugee A refugee according to the 1951 Refugee Convention is someone who owing to a well- -founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. 6 Forced displacement Also known as forced migration. When people are forced to migrate due to threats to life or livelihood, such as violence, armed conflict, violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters. Both refugees and IDPs are experiencing forced displacement. 7 Cluster approach An approach for having less gaps and overlaps in the assistance provided by humanitarian organisations. 8 Areas of humanitarian assistance are divided into clusters or sectors, which are each lead by an international agency or organisation with expertise in the area. The cluster approach aims to ensure greater leadership and accountability in key sectors where gaps in humanitarian response have been identified. 9 Reintegration In the context of internal displacement, reintegration means the process enabling IDPs to regain physical, social, legal and material security necessary to maintain life, livelihood and dignity and to resume a normal life. 10 Reintegration should happen whether the IDPs decide to return to their place of origin, to resettle to their place of displacement or to settle someplace else Research Report Page 2 of 9

3 Returnee Returnees are former refugees or IDPs who have returned to their place of habitual residence. Explanation of the Question The question of internally displaced people is a crucial yet often an overlooked issue. Refugees are generally discussed a lot more by media, hence they gain a lot more international attention, while in fact there are more IDPs than refugees in the world. 11 Internally displaced people are fleeing violence, armed conflict and/or violations of human rights. The reasons behind the occurrence of such are rooted deeply to poverty as well as unstable governance. Examples of such instability can be seen for instance in Colombia, Syrian Arab Republic, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and Ukraine. 12 These countries are responsible for the largest numbers of internal displacement due to conflict. The rise of terrorism, like in the cases of Syria and Iraq, is also a factor in the large amounts of forced displacement. Citizens of these countries escape not only armed conflict and violence, but also from being recruited into terrorist groups. Internally displaced people experience other difficulties in addition to being victims of human rights abuses and violence. IDPs might be forcefully displaced into hostile environments, where they are faced with discrimination and harassment. They often seek shelter from relatives and friends, public or abandoned buildings, makeshift shelters or, in the worst case, are out in the open with no shelter. 13 Another great problem among the internally displaced is the possible loss of identification while being displaced. This makes it difficult to access public services, limits freedom of movement and makes IDPs vulnerable to exploitation and arbitrary detention or arrest. Internal displacement is therefore also a great possibility for human traffickers, which brings a whole other dimension to the issue. Families can separate during forced displacement, which increases the amount of unaccompanied children. Children, especially when unaccompanied, women and disabled and elderly people are in a particularly vulnerable position in the case of forced displacement. They are more easily exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, child labour and recruitment into armed forces and groups. 14 If the conflict the IDPs have fled from comes to an end, the reintegration to society is not easy as they might have been living outside their societies for years. They have experienced great trauma during their forced displacement which makes the reintegration difficult. In addition to being poor with Research Report Page 3 of 9

4 little or no income and property and having lost their livelihood, the returnees often face socioeconomic exclusion. This can lead to continuing discrimination, lacking access to basic necessities and public services as well as to a lack of employment opportunities. This is where it would be extremely essential for the governments to take action. This leads to one of the key problems with internal displacement: the role of the government. Countries governments have a three-dimensional responsibility to their citizens: to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. This means that the State in question may not act in any way that could restrain or harm its citizens rights, it must take all possible, necessary actions to prevent or put to stop any violations of rights, and it must take all possible measures to ensure that individuals under its jurisdiction are able to exercise their human rights. 15 Governments of countries with most displacement, such as Syria and Yemen, are often not fulfilling these responsibilities. These countries are poor, have severe political problems and an unstable government. Not to mention that in some cases the government is the reason behind forced displacement, in which case no protection to IDPs is provided. Thus the responsibility mostly falls on the international community. This has lead the focus to shift from finding durable solutions to emergency responses, which of course are not sufficient in the long-term. Even though humanitarian assistance is essential in the question of internal displacement, it is not a solution to the problem. While the cluster approach, which tries to make the work of humanitarian organisations more efficient, is working, it does not offer a sustainable solution. The question of internally displaced people is most importantly a complex political and developmental challenge. A stable, long-term solution is essential for the issue. Relevant Member States and NGOs UNHCR Abbreviation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A UN programme for protecting and supporting refugees, which has also taken a great part in the question of internal displacement. UNHCR is a leading member in the cluster approach and has offered protection and assistance to IDPs. The assistance UNHCR has provided include matters such as life saving protection, shelter and material assistance, services, guiding the government in finding durable solutions for returnees and ensuring fundamental rights. 16 UNHCR has also assisted many forcefully displaced to return to their places of habitual residence Research Report Page 4 of 9

5 IDMC The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre is the leading global provider of data and analysis on internal displacement. IDMC is a part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is an independent, non-governmental organisation. IDMC has a wide database and specific country profiles on internal displacement worldwide. Colombia The number of Colombian IDPs is estimated at 6.4 million, making Colombia the country with most internal displacement due to conflict in the world. 17 The country has suffered from a 50-year long civil war. The population of Colombia suffers from violent encounters with armed forces, insurgent leftist groups and right-wing parliamentary groups, including US-funded death squads. In addition, the Colombian drug industry adds to the violence. 18 Syrian Arab Republic Syria has the second largest number of IDPs due to conflict. Ongoing civil war, armed conflict and the acts of the terrorist organisation Daesh (also known as ISIL, ISIS or IS) have caused such massive internal displacement in Syria. More than two thirds of the 9.5 million Syrians who have fled their homes were internally displaced in The number of Syrian IDPs decreased from 7.6 million in 2014 to 6.6 million in 2015, due to the fact that some IDPs crossed international borders to seek shelter from other countries and are now classified as refugees. 20 Ukraine Ukraine is the first country in Europe to have a significant number of IDPs. It currently has the seventh most IDPs in the world. 21 The ongoing conflicts in Eastern Ukraine has forced people to flee from their homes. As of 2015, there were around 1.5 million IDPs in Ukraine. 22 Yemen Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and has extremely limited natural resources. 23 Internal armed conflict, civil uprisings and unrest have made the situation in Yemen so severe that it has the second largest number of new IDPs due to conflict. The current conflict does not seem to be anywhere near to an end, making Yemen one of the most problematic countries in the matter Research Report Page 5 of 9

6 UN Involvement, Relevant Resolutions, Treaties and Events There are numerous resolutions on internally displaced people by the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The Question is discussed almost annually in the United Nations. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 11 February Kampala Convention, adopted 23 October _kampala_convention_african_union_convention_for_the_protection_and_assistance_of_inter nally_displaced_persons_in_e.pdf Came into force 6 December 2012 Formerly known as African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa As of 2016, signed by 40 and ratified by 25 of the 54 members in the African Union 24 Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, 1 July 2016 (A/HRC/RES/32/11) Defines the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul The goal to reduce internal displacement by at least 50 per cent is added to the 2030 Agenda 25 Timeline 24 _convention_11.pdf 25 General's%20Report%20for%20WHS_adft4ijf.azc.pdf Research Report Page 6 of 9

7 Date Description of Event 1992 The First UN Secretary General s Representative on Internal Displacement was appointed 1997 The number of IDPs at its lowest (in the time fram of ) , February 11 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 2009, October 23 Kampala Convention 2013 The number of IDPs exceeds 30 million The number of IDPs exceeds 40 million , May World Humanitarian Summit 2016 Possible Solutions As mentioned before, the issue of internal displacement should be treated as a deep-rooted political problem rather than a humanitarian one. Humanitarian assistance in the matter is still crucial and cannot be forgotten but should not be a priority in tackling the question. Only way to efficiently reduce the number of IDPs is to solve the conflicts causing forced displacement. This is neither an easy, nor a quick solution but in the long-term the only sustainable one. The international community must work together with the governments of challenging countries, so that they are able and willing to fulfill their responsibilities to their citizens. Whether or not the governments are acting according to international law should be carefully monitored and sanctions of some sort might be worth considering if governments violate their responsibilities. Even though humanitarian organisations and agencies such as the UNHCR have been working hard in assisting IDPs, they cannot possibly reach all IDPs in need of help. Since UNHCR is specifically a programme for refugees it could be an option to create a new programme directed to helping the internally displaced. On the other hand, the problems refugees and IDPs are faced with are pretty similar, so another option could be to increase UNHCR s resources so that it could reach both groups properly. One of the issues with internal displacement is the lack of knowledge on the matter. It would be extremely important to spread information about IDPs and also to establish a legal definition for them. As long as IDPs are not legally recognised, the problem cannot truly be solved Research Report Page 7 of 9

8 Bibliography Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC): UNHCR on Global Forced Displacement: UNHCR: Global Trends - Forced Displacement in 2015: UNHCR: Working with the Internally Displaced Addressing Internal Displacement: A Framework for National Responsibility: Women s Refugee Commission: Displaced Women and Girls At Risk: Humanitarian Response: What is the Cluster Approach? UNHCR: Internally Displaced People - Questions and Answers: Report of the Representative of the Secretary-General 1997: The African Union: The Kampala Convention (official document): _kampala_convention_african_union_convention_for_the_protection_and_assistance_of_internally_dis placed_persons_in_e.pdf The African Union: List of Signatories and Ratifications of the Kampala Convention ca_kampala_convention_11.pdf IDMC: The Kampala Convention (article): OHCHR: Background to the Guiding Principles: UNESCO: Displaced Person / Displacement - explanation: Key documents for the World Humanitarian Summit 2016: Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA): Article on Internal Displacement in Colombia Research Report Page 8 of 9

9 BBC: Yemen on Crisis - Article Research Report Page 9 of 9

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