On 17 May, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre launched its Global Report on Internal Displacement 2018 (GRID) at the United Nations in Geneva. The GRID is the authoritative source accounting for internal displacement globally. The keynote speech was delivered by Mr Walter Kälin, Ex-Representative of the Secretary general on the human rights of internally displaced persons. Ms Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC then presented the GRID findings, noting that 30.6 million new internal displacements by conflict and disasters were recorded in 2017, with a total of 40 million people remaining displaced by conflict as of the end of 2017.
This was followed by a panel discussion with the permanent representatives of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Fiji and Iraq, and a lively question and answer session with the audience. The key takeaways were that: it was not enough to address the humanitarian elements of internal displacement – the developmental dimensions and impacts of internal displacement also needed to be dealt with; at the international level, more ambitious efforts were needed to elevate the issue, including meaningful engagement of those states most affected; and, at the national level, governments should lead planning and response efforts, with support from humanitarian and development actors.
Introductory remarks and keynote address
Mr. Walter Kälin, Ex-Representative of the Secretary general on the human rights of internally displaced persons, delivered the keynote address, reflecting on 20 years of progress and challenges since adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. On the positive side, the Guiding Principles represented established 'soft' international law and were regarded as internationally recognised standards. Some countries had made progress in domesticating the Guiding Principles, and regionally, the Kampala Convention represented a key development by African countries to address internal displacement. However, despite these efforts, IDPs were still largely ‘left behind’ due to limited national response capacities and the absence of effective solutions for protracted displacement. At the international level, internal displacement was not getting the attention it deserved, especially given the two Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration failed to meaningfully address the issue. Resourcing and capacity on data collection and analysis, especially at that national level, were an ongoing challenge. The UN could show leadership by playing a stronger convening role, supporting and complementing national efforts, and strengthening efforts to work across the humanitarian-development nexus.
Ms. Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC, presented the main findings of Global Report on Internal Displacement 2018 (GRID). The report identified that conflict and disasters triggered 30.6 million new displacements in 2017. The regions most affected by displacement associated with conflict were Sub-Saharan Africa, with 5.5 million new displacements, and the Middle East and North Africa, with 4.5 million. About 40 million people remained internally displaced by conflict as of the end of 2017, and of the people reported as having returned, relocated or locally integrated during the year, around 8.5 million in 23 countries may not have found truly durable solutions, and could still be displaced. Counting them would bring the global total to 48.5 million people currently displaced. In terms of displacement associated with disasters, the most affected regions were East Asia and Pacific, the Americas and South Asia. Taken together, the ten countries most affected by disaster or conflict related displacement were China, Philippines, Syria, DR Congo, Cuba, USA, India, Iraq, Somalia and Ethiopia, all of which had over a million new displacements over the year. It was clear that new approaches were needed to address these growing numbers and the increasingly protracted nature of much internal displacement. Humanitarian approaches would not, on their own, be sufficient. Governments, supported by the international community, would need to lead efforts to address the humanitarian, development, economic and security impacts of internal displacement, plan to prevent future displacement and resolve existing displacement crises.
The first panel presentation was made by H.E. Ms Suraya Dalil, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who said 1.3 million IDPs were still displaced in Afghanistan at the end of last year, mainly due to conflict and insecurity. Afghanistan faced significant challenges in dealing with IDPs and returning refugees who were often returning to a life of internal displacement. To address these challenges, Afghanistan has developed a national policy on IDPs and set up a displacement and returns executive committee to deal with humanitarian assistance, documentation, access to basic services, land reform and adequate housing. Ambassador Dalil called for more political commitment at the global level, increased resources and support to governments dealing with the issue, and recognition of the need to link humanitarian and development responses to internal displacement.
H.E. Mr. Negash Kebret Botora, Permanent Representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, said internal displacement would remain a problem, and therefore renewed efforts were needed to address it and heighten visibility of the issue (including by having an international day for internally displaced people). He described Ethiopia's 'new way of working', which linked humanitarian assistance, budget and development policies to efforts to resolve internal displacement crises. Addressing internal displacement effectively required national ownership and leadership in implementing strategies and policies, and strong partnerships with international actors, as well as the private sector and civil society. Ambassador Botora then presented Ethiopia's Disaster Response Plan, which focused on both short-term and long-term solutions, and took into account local needs and local planning. He also highlighted the importance of Government ownership in the production of IDP data.
H.E. Mr. Mouayed Saleh, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Iraq, described how the conflict with ISIS in 2014 had displaced millions of Iraqis – with more than 2.6 million persons still internally displaced in 2017. Returns were complicated due to security concerns, heightening the risk of further displacement, including for returning refugees. Another major challenge was the need to guarantee the safe conditions of houses, schools and other public spaces before allowing people to return to their homes, particularly with large numbers of improvised explosive devices and booby traps set by ISIS. Reconstruction of damaged infrastructure was also a priority, but the costly and slow nature of reconstruction also posed challenges to sustainable returns. He strongly emphasised that returns had to be voluntary, noted the massive economic impacts of displacement and addressed the gender dimensions of the issue.
H.E. Ms. Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Fiji, noted that Fiji, and the Pacific Region as a whole, faced specific internal displacement challenges arising from sudden and slow-onset disasters. Regular cyclones and imminent sea-level rises as a result of climate change were particular issues of concern. Some displacement as a result of slow-onset disasters would be inevitable in the Pacific. This made thorough planning, and looking at displacement from a development lens, essential. In Fiji alone, 63 villages and settlements would have to be relocated to higher ground. Relocations were a complex and costly process, requiring careful planning, and highly inclusive community consultations. To this end, Fiji had developed national relocation guidelines, drawing on the Guiding Principles. Ambassador Khan made a strong argument for ensuring the sustainability of relocations by adopting an inclusive, people-centred and gender-based approach, informed by a deep understanding of the traditions of local communities, and the need to address property and land rights.
Questions from the audience focussed on: the best way to elevate the issue at the international level and generate political will at the national level; the need to address the differences between internal displacement arising from disasters and conflict; the ongoing relevance of the Guiding Principles; and the particularly challenges of urban displacement.
In response, the panel members and Ms Bilak made the following observations:
- the Guiding Principles were a valuable and flexible tool which put the rights of IDPs at the centre of responses
- addressing internal displacement would require moving beyond solely humanitarian responses, and developing an integrated approach to conflict prevention, disaster risk planning, crisis response, and long-term development policy-making and programming, informed by the specific context of each internal displacement crisis
- a higher level of ambition was required to elevate the issue internationally. Any high level initiatives should include the meaningful participation of states affected, and provide a forum for states and other actors to share experiences on best practices and ways to address gaps
- the international community would need to step up its efforts to support governments in strengthen national systems and planning on internal displacement, including data collection, monitoring and analysis
- better understanding the economic costs and long-term development impacts of internal displacement, and the link between displacement and political stability, was critical in making the case of the need to prevent new displacement and resolve protracted displacement crises
Several interventions from the audience and from the panelists noted the importance of IDMC's work – and especially the GRID – in shining a light on the scale and scope of internal displacement, deepening understanding of its impacts, providing leadership on efforts to improve internal displacement data and driving efforts to keep the issue on the international agenda.
The launch was followed by a reception hosted by the Australian and United States Permanent Missions.