Internally displaced person
An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country's borders. They are often referred to as refugees, although they do not fall within the current legal definition of a refugee. At the end of 2006 it was estimated there were 24.5 million IDPs in some 52 countries. The region with the largest IDP population is Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 with some 11.8 million in 21 countries.


There is no legal definition as there is for a refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

. However, a United Nations report, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement uses the definition:
internally displaced persons (also known as DPRE in many civil and military organizations which assist) are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence
Habitual residence
In conflict of laws, habitual residence is the standard used to determine the law which should be applied to determine a given legal dispute. It can be contrasted with the law on domicile, traditionally used in common law jurisdictions to do the same thing....

, 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 State border.

While the above stresses two important elements of internal displacement (coercion and the domestic/internal movement) it is important to note that rather than a strict definition, the Guiding Principles offer “a descriptive identification of the category of persons whose needs are the concern of the Guiding Principles”. In this way, the document “intentionally steers
toward flexibility rather than legal precision” as the words “in particular” indicate that the list of reasons for displacement is not exhaustive. However, as Erin Mooney has pointed out, “global statistics on internal displacement generally count only IDPs uprooted by conflict and human rights violations. Moreover, a recent study has recommended that the IDP concept should be defined even more narrowly, to be limited to persons displaced by violence.” Thus, despite the non-exhaustive reasons of internal displacement, many consider IDPs as those who would be defined as refugees if they were to cross an international border hence the term refugees in all but name is often applied to IDPs.

IDP populations

It is very difficult to get accurate figures for IDPs because populations are constantly fluctuating: some IDPs may be returning home while others are fleeing, others may periodically return to IDP camps to take advantage of humanitarian aid. While the case of IDPs in large camps such as those in Darfur, western Sudan, are relatively well-reported, it is very difficult to assess those IDPs who flee to larger towns and cities. It is necessary in many instances to supplement official figures with additional information obtained from operational humanitarian organizations on the ground. Thus, the 24.5 million figure must be treated as an estimate. Additionally, most official figures only include those displaced by conflict or natural disasters. Development-induced IDPs often are not included in assessments.

IDP Statistics

The largest IDP populations can be found in Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, the DRC
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

, Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 each with IDP populations of over one million. An updated country by country breakdown can be found at: IDMC Global Statistics It has been estimated that between 70 and 80% of all IDPs are women and children.

Countries with significant IDP populations

  • Azerbaijan
    Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

     has 1,000,000 IDPs as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War
    Nagorno-Karabakh War
    The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan...

    . (Refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan
    Refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan
    Azerbaijani SSR was the first republic of Soviet Union that faced the problem of refugees. Those people were the Azerbaijani inhabitants of Armenia.-Refugees from Armenia:...

  • Afghanistan
    Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

     has 132,000 - 200,000 IDPs, mostly in the south and west parts of the country, due to fighting between NATO and Taliban-allied fighters.
  • Burma (Myanmar) has about 503,000 IDPs due to decades of a long Internal conflict in Myanmar and government repression of ethnic minorities as well as Cyclone Nargis
    Cyclone Nargis
    Cyclone Nargis , was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma. The cyclone made landfall in Burma on Friday, May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 138,000 fatalities...

  • The Central African Republic
    Central African Republic
    The Central African Republic , is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the north east, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south, and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about ,...

     has about 197,000 IDPs due to the 2003 coup d'état and the subsequent civil war.
  • Chad
    Chad , officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west...

     has about 178,000 IDPs due to the proximity to Darfur
    Darfur is a region in western Sudan. An independent sultanate for several hundred years, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. The region is divided into three federal states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur...

     and the civil war in eastern Chad.
  • Colombia
    Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

     has over 2 (possibly 3) million IDPs according to the UNHCR, due to the war between the government, the FARC
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
    The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict, currently involved in drug dealing and crimes against the civilians..FARC-EP is a peasant army which...

    , the AUC
    United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
    The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia was created as an umbrella organization of regional far-right...

     and other armed groups. But, the numbers could be higher due this numbers correspond to statistics since 1997. COHDES determined that the IDP amount is higher, surpassing 5 million people.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo has almost 1,5 million IDPs due to the Second Congo War
    Second Congo War
    The Second Congo War, also known as Coltan War and the Great War of Africa, began in August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo , and officially ended in July 2003 when the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo took power; however, hostilities continue to this...

    , mostly in the eastern provinces.
  • Cote d'Ivoire
    Côte d'Ivoire
    The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

     has about 709,000 IDPs due to the civil war, mostly in the western regions.
  • Cyprus
    Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

     has about 210,000 IDPs due to the intercommunal troubles of 1964 and the 1974 Turkish invasion
    Turkish invasion of Cyprus
    The Turkish invasion of Cyprus, launched on 20 July 1974, was a Turkish military invasion in response to a Greek military junta backed coup in Cyprus...

     and their aftermaths.
  • Ethiopia
    Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

     has about 200,000 IDPs due to natural disasters, the Ethiopian-Eritrean War and the Ogaden conflict.
  • Georgia
    Georgia (country)
    Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

     has 220,000 - 300,000 IDPs due to displacement of the ethnic Georgian population who have fled Abkhazia
    Abkhazia is a disputed political entity on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, called the Republic of Abkhazia or Apsny...

     and South Ossetia
    South Ossetia
    South Ossetia or Tskhinvali Region is a disputed region and partly recognized state in the South Caucasus, located in the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic....

  • Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

     has over 2.5 million IDPs due to forced displacement during Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

    's regime, and fighting between the Multi-National Force and Iraqi insurgent groups
    History of Iraqi insurgency
    This is a history of the Iraqi insurgency, the armed opposition to the United States-led multinational force in Iraq in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government.-Build up to insurgency:...

  • India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     - About 150,000, Kashmiri Pandit
    Kashmiri Pandit
    The Kashmiri Pandits are a Hindu Brahmin community originating from Kashmir, a mountainous region in South Asia.-Background:The Hindu caste system of the region was influenced by the influx of Buddhism from the time of Asoka, around the third century BCE, and a consequence of this was that the...

    s from the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir
    Jammu and Kashmir
    Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of India. It is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People's Republic of China to the north and east and the...

     have been internally displaced due to the aggressive and violent separatist movement. Many adivasis(tribals) in the states(especially in Central India that fall in the Red Corridor
    Red corridor
    The Red Corridor is a term used to describe an impoverished region in the east of India that experiences considerable Naxalite communist insurgency...

    ) where the violence between the Naxals and the Indian State has been rising are forced by circumstances to move to the neighboring relatively peaceful states both for saving their lives and for employment.
  • Indonesia
    Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

     has 200,000 - 350,000 IDPs due to fighting between the government and secessionist rebel movements.
  • Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

     has 150,000 - 420,000 Internally Displaced Palestinians
    Internally displaced Palestinians
    A present absentee is a Palestinian who fled or was expelled from his home in Palestine by Jewish or Israeli forces, before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, but who remained within the area that became the state of Israel. Present absentees are also referred to as internally displaced...

     and Bedouin
    The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

    s, most of whom are Arab citizens of Israel
    Arab citizens of Israel
    Arab citizens of Israel refers to citizens of Israel who are not Jewish, and whose cultural and linguistic heritage or ethnic identity is Arab....

  • Kenya
    Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

     has 250,000 - 400,000 IDPs due to the violence that rocked the country after the 2007 elections.
  • Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

     has more than 400,000 IDPs at the end of 2008 due to ongoing conflicts in three regions of Pakistan. Currently one million people have displaced in NWFP province due to military operation.
  • The Philippines
    The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

     have about 300,000 IDPs due to fighting between the government and communist and islamic rebels.
  • Serbia
    Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

     has over 220,000 IDPs from Kosovo after the arrival of NATO forces.
  • Somalia
    Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

     has over a million IDPs due to the civil war
    Somali Civil War
    The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. The conflict, which began in 1991, has caused destabilisation throughout the country, with the current phase of the conflict seeing the Somali government losing substantial control of the state to rebel forces...

  • Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

     has 250,000 - 300,000 IDPs
    Sri Lankan IDP camps
    The final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War created 300,000 internally displaced persons who were transferred to camps in Vavuniya District and detained there against their will. This process, together with the conditions inside the camps and the slow progress of resettlement in 2009 had...

    , mostly in the Northern parts of the country especially in Vavuniya, due to the fighting between LTTE and Sri Lanka Army.
  • Sudan
    Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

     has 5 - 6 million IDPs due to decades of civil war
    Second Sudanese Civil War
    The Second Sudanese Civil War started in 1983, although it was largely a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War of 1955 to 1972. Although it originated in southern Sudan, the civil war spread to the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile by the end of the 1980s....

     in the south and the Darfur conflict
    Darfur conflict
    The Darfur Conflict was a guerrilla conflict or civil war centered on the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing non-Arab Sudanese in...

     in the west.
  • Uganda
    Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

     has about 869,000 IDPs due to the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army
    Lord's Resistance Army
    The Lord's Resistance Army insurgency is an ongoing guerrilla campaign waged since 1987 by the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, operating mainly in northern Uganda, but also in South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo...

  • United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     has about 700,000 IDPs from inner city gang violence in various major cities in America.
  • Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

     has 560,000 - 960,000 IDPs due to political violence, major land reform and an economic collapse of the country.

Protection and Assistance

The problem of protecting and assisting IDPs is not a new issue. In international law it is the responsibility of the government concerned to provide assistance and protection for the IDPs in their country. However, as many of the displaced are a result of civil conflict and violence or where the authority of the central state is in doubt, there is no local authority willing to provide assistance and protection. It has been estimated that some 5 million IDPs in 11 countries are "without any significant humanitarian assistance from their governments."

Unlike the case of refugees, there is no international humanitarian institution which has the overall responsibility of protecting and assisting the refugees as well as the internally displaced.. A number of organizations have stepped into the breach in specific circumstances.


The UNHCR was mandated by General Assembly Resolution 428 (V) of 14 December 1950 to "lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection
of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems....guided by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is an international convention that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The Convention also sets out which people do not...

 and its 1967 Protocol." The UNHCR has traditionally argued that it does not have a "general competence for IDPs" even though at least since 1972 it had relief and rehabillatation programs for those displaced within a country. However, in cases where there is a specific request by the UN Secretary General and with the consent of the State concerned it has been willing to respond by assisting IDPs in a given instance. In 2005 it was helping some 5.6 million IDPs (out of over 25 million), but only about 1.1 million in Africa.
In 2005, the UNHCR signed an agreement with other humanitarian agencies. "Under this agreement, UNHCR will assume the lead responsibility for protection, emergency shelter and camp management for internally displaced people."


International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 has a mandate of ensuring the application of International Humanitarian Law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 as it affects civilians in the midst of armed conflict. They have traditionally not distinguished between civilians who are internally displaced and those who remain in their homes. In a 2006 policy statement, the ICRC stated:
The ICRC's overall objective is to alleviate the suffering of people who are caught up in armed
conflict and other situations of violence. To that end, the organization strives to provide
effective and efficient assistance and protection for such persons, be they displaced or not,
while taking into consideration the action of other humanitarian organizations.
On the basis of its long experience in different parts of the world, the ICRC has defined an
operational approach towards the civilian population as a whole that is designed to meet the
most urgent humanitarian needs of both displaced persons and local and host communities.

However, its Director of Operations has earlier recognized that IDPs "deprived of shelter and their habitual sources of food, water, medicine and money, they have different, and often more urgent, material needs."

Collaborative Approach

The previous system set up internationally to address the needs of IDPs was referred to as the collaborative approach as the responsibility for protecting and assisting IDPs was shared among the UN agencies, i.e. UNHCR, Unicef, WFP, UNDP, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the inter-governmental organization IOM
IOM may refer to:* Institute of Medicine, a not-for-profit, non-governmental American organization founded in 1970* Institute of Occupational Medicine in the UK* International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental organization...

, the ICRC and International NGOs. Coordination is the responsibility of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Humanitarian Coordinator
Humanitarian Coordinator
The Humanitarian Coordinator is the senior-most United Nations official in a country experiencing a humanitarian emergency. The Humanitarian Coordinator is appointed by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator when a new emergency occurs or an existing humanitarian situation "worsens in...

 in the country concerned. They are assisted by the Inter-Agency Displacement Division which was created in 2004 and is housed in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA
Ocha is a genus of moth in the family Lasiocampidae....


The original collaborative approach has come under increasing criticism. Roberta Cohen reports:
Nearly every UN and independent evaluation has found the collaborative approach deficient when it comes to IDPs. To begin with, there is no real locus of responsibility in the field for assisting and protecting...There is also no predictability of action, as the different agencies are free to pick and choose the situations in which they wish to become involved on the basis of their respective mandates, resources, and interests. In every new emergency, no one knows for sure which agency or combination thereof will become involved.
In 2005 there was an attempt to fix the problem by giving sectoral responsibilities to different humanitarian agencies, most notably with the UNHCR taking on the responsibility for protection and the management of camps and emergency shelters.

The Cluster Approach

As some have pointed out, one of the most flagrant problems of the collaborative response was that “abnegation of responsibility is possible because there is no formal responsibility apportioned to agencies under the Collaborative Response, and thus no accountability when agencies renege on their promises.” The cluster approach – the successor to the collaborative approach - tried to do away with this problem by designating individual agencies as ‘sector leaders’ to coordinate operations in specific areas to try to plug those newly identified gaps. The cluster approach was conceived amid concerns about coordination and capacity that arose from the weak operational response to the crisis in Darfur in 2004 and 2005, and the critical findings of the Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) commissioned by the then ERC, Jan Egeland. Egeland called for strengthening leadership of the sectors, and introduced the concept of "clusters” at different levels (headquarters, regional, country and operational)’.

The cluster approach operates on two levels: the global and local. At the global level, the approach is meant to build up capacity in eleven key ‘gap’ areas by developing better surge capacity, ensuring consistent access to appropriately trained technical expertise and enhanced material stockpiles, and securing the increased engagement of all relevant humanitarian
partners. At the field level, the cluster approach strengthens the coordination and response capacity by mobilizing clusters of humanitarian agencies (UN/Red Cross-Red Crescent/IOs/NGOs) to respond in particular sectors or areas of activity, each cluster having a clearly designated and accountable lead, as agreed by the HC and the Country Team. Designated lead agencies at the global level both participate directly in operations, but also coordinate with and oversee other organizations within their specific spheres, reporting the results up through a designated chain of command to the ERC at the summit. However, lead agencies are responsible as ‘providers of last resort’, which represents the commitment of cluster leads to do their utmost to ensure an adequate and appropriate response in their respective areas of responsibility. The cluster approach was part of a package of reforms accepted by the IASC in December 2005 and subsequently applied in eight chronic humanitarian crises and six sudden-onset emergencies. However, the reform was originally rolled out and evaluated in four countries: DRC, Liberia, Somalia and Uganda.

The clusters were originally concentrated on nine areas:
  1. Logistics (WFP)
  2. emergency telecommunications (OCHA-Process owner, UNICEF Common Data Services, WFP – Common Security Telecommunications Services)
  3. camp coordination and management (UNHCR for conflict-generated IDPs and IOM for natural disaster-generated IDPs)
  4. emergency shelter (IFRC)
  5. health (WHO)
  6. nutrition (UNICEF)
  7. water, sanitation, and hygiene (UNICEF)
  8. early recovery (UNDP); and
  9. protection (UNHCR for conflict-generated IDPs, UNHCR, UNICEF, and OHCHR for natural disaster generated IDPs.

IASC Principles deemed it unnecessary to apply the cluster approach to four sectors where no significant gaps were detected: a) food, led by WFP; b) refugees, led by UNHCR; c) education, led by UNICEF; and d) agriculture, led by FAO.

The original nine clusters were later expanded to include agriculture and education.

International Law

Unlike the case of refugees, there is no international treaty which applies specifically to IDPs. Recognizing the gap, the UN Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali appointed Francis Deng
Francis Deng
On 29 May 2007, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Dr. Francis M. Deng of the Sudan as the new Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, a position he holds at the level of Under-Secretary General....

 in 1992 as his representative for internally displaced persons. Besides acting as an advocate for IDPs, Deng set out in 1994, at the request of the UN General Assembly to examine and bring together existing international laws which relating to the protection of IDPs. The result of this work was the document, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

The Guiding Principles lay out the responsibilities of states before displacement – that is, to prevent displacement – during and after displacement. They have been endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) and by the signatories to the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, which include Sudan, DRC and Uganda.

The Guiding Principles, however, are non-binding. As Bahame Tom Nyanduga, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, IDPs and Asylum Seekers in Africa for the ACHPR has stated, “the absence of a binding international legal regime on internal displacement is a grave lacuna in international law."

In September 2004 the Secretary-General of the UN showed the continuing concern of his office by appointing Walter Kälin as his Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons. Part of his mandate includes the promoting of the Guiding Principles.

Right of Return

In so-called "post-conflict" situations, there has traditionally been an emphasis in the international community to seek to return to the pre-war status-quo. However, opinions are gradually changing, because violent conflict destroys political, economic and social structures and new structures develop as a result, quite often irreversibly. Furthermore, returning to the pre-war status-quo may actually be undesirable if pre-war structures led to the conflict in the first place, or prevented its early resolution. IDPs' and refugees' right of return can represent one of the most complex aspects of this issue.

Normally, pressure is applied by the international community
International community
The international community is a term used in international relations to refer to all peoples, cultures and governments of the world or to a group of them. The term is used to imply the existence of common duties and obligations between them...

 and humanitarian organization to ensure displaced people are able to return to their areas of origin and the same property. The UN Principles for Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and IDPs, otherwise known as the Pinheiro Principles, provides guidance on the management of the technical and legal aspects of housing, land and property (HLP) restitution. Restitution
The law of restitution is the law of gains-based recovery. It is to be contrasted with the law of compensation, which is the law of loss-based recovery. Obligations to make restitution and obligations to pay compensation are each a type of legal response to events in the real world. When a court...

 rights are of key importance to IDPs and refugees around the world, and important to try preventing aggressors benefiting from conflict. However, without a clear understanding of each local context, full restitution rights can be unworkable and fail to protect the people it is designed to protect for the following reasons, refugees and IDPs:
  • may never have had property (e.g. in Afghanistan);
  • cannot access what property they have (Colombia, Guatemala, South Africa and Sudan);
  • ownership is unclear as families have expanded or split and division of the land becomes an issue;
  • death of owner may leave dependents without clear claim to the land;
  • people settled on the land know it is not theirs but have nowhere else to go (as in Colombia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste); and
  • have completing claims with others, including the state and its foreign or local business partners (as in Aceh, Angola, Colombia, Liberia and Sudan)

Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute
Overseas Development Institute
The Overseas Development Institute is one of the leading independent think tanks on international development and humanitarian issues. Based in London, its mission is "to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement...

 stress the need for humanitarian organization to develop a greater expertise in these issues, using experts who have a knowledge in both humanitarian and land and property issues and so provide better advice to state actors seeking to resolve these issues. The ODI calls on humanitarian agencies to develop an awareness of sustainable reintegration as part of their emphasis on returning IDPs and refugees home. Legal advice needs to be provided to all parties involved even if a framework is created in which to resolve these issues.

External links

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