Internal displacement remains one of the most significant challenges facing the humanitarian community.
The need for international standards to protect and assist internally displaced persons arose directly from the explosion of civil wars in the last decade of the 20th century that left tens of millions uprooted within the borders of their own countries.
Summary of outcomes of the GP 10 Conference: 16 - 17 October 2008, Oslo
Ten years ago the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped draft the Guiding Principles. How have the Principles contributed to improving protection for IDPs? What gaps remain?
The Guiding Principles’ objectives were clear but, ten years on, how can we assess their impact?
At the GP10 conference, several speakers invoked the ‘responsibility to protect’ and recommended closely linking it to the Guiding Principles and with the fate and situation of the millions of IDPs. What might making this connection bring, conceptually and concretely, to the protection of IDPs?
While the Guiding Principles have galvanised awareness of, and assistance for, IDPs in Burma, they have been an ineffective tool for dealing with a predatory military junta.
Georgia has made significant strides towards incorporating the Principles in policy and practice.
A continent-wide Convention to protect IDPs in Africa could soon be adopted by the African Union. If sufficiently robust and aligned closely with the Guiding Principles, it would send a powerful signal about Africa’s determination to address IDP issues.
An often-overlooked aspect of northern Uganda’s protracted conflict is that the main driver of displacement was the Ugandan government’s decision to force civilians into ‘protected villages’. Peace may be in sight but more must be done to make a reality of Uganda’s mould-breaking national IDP policy.
The emergence of a right to post-displacement property restitution represents a significant development in human rights law in the ten years since the Guiding Principles were submitted. While Guiding Principle 29 has contributed to the development of this right, significant obstacles remain to its consistent application in displacement settings.
Restoring property to displaced Afghans is a formidable challenge. Given the prevalence of landlessness, overlapping claims and inequitable property distribution, focusing solely on restoring land to its ‘original owners’ is unlikely to meet the needs of IDPs, returnees and their neighbours.
Guiding Principle 22 affirms IDPs’ “right to vote and to participate in governmental and public affairs, including the right to have access to the means necessary to exercise this right.” Despite the clarity of this language, there is no set of universally accepted policies and practices protecting IDP voting rights.
While Nepal’s new Maoist-led government drags its heels in implementing the country’s national policy on IDPs, the needs of those displaced by conflict continue to go unmet.
Oxfam GB’s response to the devastation and displacement caused by Typhoon Durian included advocacy with Philippine state, NGO, community and private sector actors to raise awareness of Principle 27 – obliging providers of humanitarian assistance to ‘give due regard to the protection needs and human rights’ of IDPs.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), where most displaced people are unaware of their rights, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is seeking to promote wider awareness of, and respect for, the Guiding Principles.
UNHCR has worked to protect and assist IDPs since the mid 1970s. It has progressively established large-scale IDP operations and today works with governments and other humanitarian actors in 28 countries to protect nearly 14 million IDPs.
The earliest post-launch training activities around the Principles aimed mainly to raise awareness and generate acceptance from government, NGO, UN and international actors. In recent years, training has have moved beyond awareness raising to applying the Principles and setting global standards.