Training to strengthen protection of IDP rights

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.

The tenth anniversary of the Principles offers an opportunity to review training progress. The Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) which led to the implementation of the cluster approach in December 2005[1] provided a catalyst for humanitarian agencies to reinforce and reorient training programmes, ensuring the incorporation of the Principles into training interventions. The cluster approach has also contributed significantly to inter-agency development of tools[2] and the global protection cluster has played a pivotal role in developing and disseminating tools that focus on IDP protection. Other cluster training resources focused on mainstreaming internal displacement considerations into areas such as gender-based violence, camp management and early recovery.

Some inter-agency initiatives that preceded the HRR illustrate the value of inter-agency cooperation on training to establish common standards and field guidance tools, and were later reinforced by the cluster approach. For example, the Camp Management Project (CMP) was initiated in Sierra Leone in late 2002 to improve the quality of assistance and protection in the country’s IDP camps and resulted in the publication of a toolkit in 2004 (updated in 2008)[3] followed by the development by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) of training materials, a training of trainers (ToT) course and an inter-agency roster of trainers. After the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster was established, it assumed leadership in this field and developed standards, tools and guidelines, including three comprehensive training packages.

The inter-agency Protection Capacity Standby Project (ProCap), hosted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), supports UN field offices through deployment of senior protection officers and a training programme for mid-level NGO  standby protection experts. ProCap’s six-day residential training course on protection in emergencies addresses protection broadly but also provides a specific focus on internal displacement and inter-agency coordination. During the course, participants are called on to to take institutional mandates out of the equation when analysing protection risks and needs, and then to assume different ‘agency hats’ in a simulated emergency protection response.

The Action for the Rights of Children (ARC) initiative[4] produced a training package on child protection in emergencies which includes briefing notes, participatory training materials, case studies, training aids and a facilitator's guide. Revised materials expected in 2009 will incorporate considerations specific to complex emergencies, displacement and disaster situations. This tool focuses on the potential consequences of displacement on the rights of children in terms of critical issues such as separation of families, risk of abuse, recruitment into armed forces and child labour.

In addition to formal inter-agency initiatives, some providers strongly focus on training national and local actors. The UN Secretary-General’s Representative – supported by OHCHR and the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement – runs an annual five-day residential course and regional training workshops on issues such as peacebuilding, natural disasters and national laws and policies on displacement. Brookings-Bern works with academic and civil society partners to organise courses in South Asia and East Africa and liaises closely with national human rights institutions to support their engagement with IDPs. The NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) provides support to field-based UN agencies and international NGOs to train national and local partners. Its programme includes a three-day protection workshop that covers all aspects of internal displacement. NRC field offices have also developed a drama-based methodology to empower IDPs about their rights and to identify courses of action for change. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs a course for policymakers on the political rights of the displaced and has incorporated IDP issues into an international migration law course for mid/senior-level government officials.

Many organisations have mainly focused on strengthening their training activities for their own staff and operational partners. For example, OCHA’s Displacement and Protection Support Section (DPSS) provides training in needs assessments, strategy development, operational responses and coordination at the global and field levels for the staff of OCHA and members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). UNHCR has incorporated IDP components into staff learning programmes and is developing programmes for staff induction and for senior managers on IDP protection. OHCHR has incorporated IDP-specific considerations into its basic training for field human rights officers and a specialised course on strategies and skills for human rights monitoring. UNICEF has incorporated IDP issues into a policy and its training programmes on child protection. The World Food Programme (WFP) has developed policy, field guidance and a training programme for staff and partners to roll out its new approach to mainstreaming protection into food assistance interventions. Protection reviews carried out by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) have led them to incorporate IDP-specific considerations into training activities and to develop an IDP Profiling Toolbox[5] based on their field experience in Somalia. 

ICRC’s training approach remains closely tied to its mandate to protect all victims of armed conflict, with IDPs seen as part of a broader spectrum of people who have suffered violations of international humanitarian law. Since the HRR, the ICRC has focused staff training on increasing their understanding of the reforms and the cluster approach. It has also engaged in increased dialogue with partners to articulate the ICRC’s approach to IDP protection to provide a broader frame within which to address internal displacement.[6]

Time to take stock

These new resource materials reflect progress towards a better understanding of respective mandates and approaches, increased exchanges of experiences and inter-agency delivery of field training in the field. The cluster approach has, however, only been activated in a small number of countries affected by internal displacement. Much remains to be done before common standards and the cluster approach are consistently understood and implemented by all stakeholders in the field.

A 2007 UNHCR analysis of evaluations in five cluster IDP operations[7] indicates where international organisations stand in terms of progress towards more effective delivery of protection and assistance to IDPs. The evaluations highlighted gaps in knowledge and skills, indicating the need for increased training to address lack of engagement by important stakeholders, including some host governments, many national NGOs and even some UN field staff. These common challenges faced by international organisations can best be addressed by more cross-fertilisation between ‘protection’ and ‘assistance’ organisations to ensure consistent understanding and delivery of training on the human rights of IDPs. In both the protection and early recovery clusters, common issues such as child protection, gender-based violence, housing, land and property rights, and rule of law and justice are addressed in different ways. Many more synergies could be explored with a view to making effective transitions from humanitarian response to development.

National and local authorities, human rights agencies, faith-based and other civil society organisations, and IDP communities are active in using the Principles in dissemination and training activities. UNHCR’s 2007 evaluations have highlighted the need for additional guidance on how to better engage with national stakeholders in order to enhance national protection capacity. Many international organisations have had successful results from capacity-strengthening activities in IDP operations and in contexts such as human rights, asylum and rule of law but the capacity and resources dedicated to documenting and sharing good practices vary. In order to progress further towards a consistently effective response to internal displacement, the challenge of evaluating field training and capacity-strengthening activities conducted by a wide-range of actors should be taken up at the inter-agency level and supported by donors. Without a comprehensive review, it will be difficult to remedy the recurrent weakness identified by UNHCR in terms of reinforcing state responsibilities to protect and civil society organisations’ capacity to contribute to enhancing national protection capacity.

More inter-agency debate is needed to resolve misunderstandings and concerns that the IDP category may have obscured attention to the rights and protection needs of other affected populations such as the non-displaced victims of war and natural disasters. Many organisations are also struggling with how to assist less visible urban IDPs and to support host families and communities sharing meagre resources with IDPs. Also, no UN agency has a designated lead role in situations of natural disaster as the cluster approach merely sets out that UNICEF, OHCHR and UNHCR should be consulted to determine who will take a lead role when a natural or human-made disaster occurs.


Kim Mancini Beck ( is a Senior Training Officer with the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre ( The author wishes to thank representatives of the American Refugee Committee, the Brooking-Bern Project, DRC, ICRC, IOM, NRC, Terre des Hommes, World Vision Australia, OCHA, Oxfam GB, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP for sharing information, experience and analysis.

[1] For further information on the cluster approach, see FMR29:

[2] Many of these tools are described in other articles in this issue of FMR. Please refer also to the comprehensive listing of resources on page 40

[4]  See also the self-study CD-Rom entitled ‘Introduction to child protection in emergencies’.

[6] See article by Cordula Droege 'Developments in the legal protection of IDPs'


[7] ‘Real-time evaluations of UNHCR’s involvement in operations for internally displaced persons and the cluster approach: analysis of findings’, 2007.



Opinions in FMR do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors, the Refugee Studies Centre or the University of Oxford.
FMR is an Open Access publication. Users are free to read, download, copy, distribute, print or link to the full texts of articles published in FMR and on the FMR website, as long as the use is for non-commercial purposes and the author and FMR are attributed. Unless otherwise indicated, all articles published in FMR in print and online, and FMR itself, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) licence. Details at