The development of laws and policies that address the plight of internally displaced people (IDPs) is becoming a global trend. National authorities are increasingly expressing their commitment to implementing the standards set out in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and other supranational instruments through the adoption of national laws, policies, decrees, protocols, strategies and action plans.
In mid-2015, the global protection cluster (GPC) task team on law and policy, co-chaired by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), started to collect information on national frameworks relevant to the phenomenon worldwide.
The information gathered so far reveals that countries respond to internal displacement in a variety of ways. Some develop legislation or implement policies that respond to existing and specific situations. Others adopt comprehensive laws and policies that address all aspects. A considerable number of countries are also using the Guiding Principles or the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, commonly known as the Kampala Convention, as points of reference in drafting national laws and policies.
National governments have made positive strides in addressing their IDPs’ assistance and protection needs, but our analysis reveals substantive issues and challenges in terms of law and policy that require their sustained attention.
Key gaps include a lack of provisions on assistance for those hosting IDPs, and the adoption of definitions of an IDP and solutions frameworks that are limited in scope, which in turn undermine efforts to address the causes of displacement. Some laws and policies fail to include detailed provisions on implementation and monitoring or the institutional arrangements necessary for doing so.
The absence of specific provisions to facilitate sustainable return, local integration or resettlement is also a common feature, and translating laws and policies into practice has proven a challenge. Structural problems, weak institutions, poor coordination and communication, and a lack of political will, funding and other resources are in many cases obstacles that impede implementation on the ground and mean that, despite adoption of relevant frameworks, in certain situations little difference is still made to the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide.