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Reflections on State experiences in the IGAD region

Internal displacement is a major concern in the IGAD region. The population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) across this eight-country trading bloc[1] has risen significantly since 2014, mainly due to conflicts in South Sudan and Ethiopia. At the end of 2019, an estimated nearly eight million people were internally displaced in the region as a result of conflict and violence. In addition, an estimated 1,753,000 people were displaced by disasters, mostly in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.[2]

Disasters caused by drought, floods and landslides are currently the main drivers of displacement in Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda. While disasters also displace people in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, conflicts are the main drivers in those countries and the resulting internal displacement is largely protracted.

The African Union had declared 2019 to be the Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons. It was also the 50th anniversary of the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Convention on Refugees) and the 10th anniversary of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention).  

It was fitting, therefore, that in October 2019 IGAD – in collaboration with the GP20 initiative and with the support of the Global Protection Cluster, the Government of Switzerland and the African Union Commission (AUC) – convened an exchange of experiences in supporting resilience and durable solutions to internal displacement. The exchange was held under the framework of IGAD’s Regional Consultative Process on Migration – an open platform to discuss and advance migration issues – and brought together over 100 government officials, representatives of national human rights institutions, experts, humanitarian practitioners, development actors and donors. This article reflects on some of the outcomes and lessons emerging from these discussions.

Importance of normative frameworks

IGAD convenes joint annual seminars on the Kampala Convention in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, AUC and UN agencies. These serve as platforms to advocate for the ratification and implementation of the convention by IGAD Member States and for discussion of the tools and support systems available to help them achieve this goal. At the 2019 annual regional exchange, discussions were extended beyond the Kampala Convention to include early warning systems, peacebuilding, data collection, funding and approaches to durable solutions at both national and sub-national levels. The annual seminars and exchanges, in which Member States are encouraged to showcase their progress in addressing IDPs’ protection and assistance needs, create an element of competition that works to exert a positive influence on Member States.

One of the most encouraging outcomes of the 2019 regional exchange was the general acceptance of the importance of adopting and implementing laws, policies and decrees addressing internal displacement. Normative frameworks help clarify government responsibilities, define responders’ roles and increase the predictability of humanitarian and development action by institutionalising collaborative arrangements. They also define IDPs’ rights and the measures to be taken to ensure they are fully protected. Accordingly, there was a dedicated session on law and policy at the exchange that facilitated the sharing of experiences on development and implementation of laws and policies on internal displacement. 

IGAD Member States have adopted various approaches and are in different phases of developing frameworks to address the needs of IDPs in their countries. At the regional level, the Kampala Convention is the only legally binding regional instrument on internal displacement, and all IGAD Member States expressed their political commitment to advancing its aims. As of October 2019, Djibouti, South Sudan, Somalia and Uganda had ratified the Kampala Convention. Ethiopia, which had signed the Convention, has since ratified it. Kenya and Sudan are yet to sign.

Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are also party to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region; this includes a Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons as well as a Protocol on the Property Rights of Returning Persons. In addition, most IGAD Member States have national laws, policies or frameworks on internal displacement.

Besides the need to have appropriate policies and laws addressing internal displacement in place, however, members of the workshop agreed that ensuring their implementation is key. Challenges to implementation that were highlighted by IGAD Member States include security concerns, limited institutional capacity, lack of resources and land for allocation, donor fatigue, inadequate data on IDP and returnee profiles, limited commitment of government stakeholders, and limited access to technology which may assist in the prevention of displacement (for example, for hazard risk assessment).

Efforts that have been made to address these implementation challenges include the 2017 Harare Plan of Action – the first action plan for the implementation of the Kampala Convention. In addition to establishing frameworks, its objectives are to promote and strengthen regional and national measures to prevent and eliminate the root causes of internal displacement and provide for durable solutions; to promote the obligations and responsibilities of States Parties; and to identify specific obligations, roles and responsibilities of armed groups, non-State actors and other relevant actors including civil society organisations. Key progress on implementing the Harare Plan of Action includes the adoption of the 2018 AU Model Law on Internal Displacement[3] and the establishment of a Conference of States Parties to monitor and foster compliance among AU Member States.

At country level, Somalia and Ethiopia have established Durable Solutions Initiatives (DSIs) which aim to facilitate collective action and cooperation between the government authorities at national, regional and local levels and the international community (UN, international and national NGOs and donors). DSIs support political ownership and leadership at the highest level, ensure community engagement and connect the necessary humanitarian, development and peace actors to support durable solutions for IDPs at policy, legislative, institutional, planning and operational levels. The DSIs in Somalia and Ethiopia have facilitated the ratification of the Kampala Convention and the drafting of national and sub-national IDP policies. They have also promoted shared understanding and use of common methodological tools among different stakeholders.

Centrality of government and multi-stakeholder coordination

There was a general consensus that government leadership – essential in identifying, coordinating and implementing durable solutions to internal displacement – requires the designation of a government focal point. Designating a government focal point is important for clarifying institutional responsibilities and for increasing government accountability.[4] Government leadership is essential if coordination is to be effective both vertically (between national, sub-national and local levels) and horizontally (across relevant ministries and other institutions). All IGAD Member States undertake such coordination, though in different ways.

An example of particularly effective multi-stakeholder coordination can be found in Sudan, where national and local government, national and local civil society, the private sector and the international community (including the UN, development banks, donors and international NGOs) engage in joint planning, programming and implementation through what are known as State Liaison Functions.

Joint activities encourage all parties to invest energy in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, including continued humanitarian assistance as well as multi-year investments in resilience. However, as the discussions revealed, the short-term nature of funding and the challenging fundraising context threaten the sustainability of the impact.

Sustainability of funding

The extent to which a government gives priority to funding for IDPs is an indication both of its level of awareness and of its commitment to IDPs. Stakeholders at the regional exchange stressed that governments need to allocate sufficient funding to support programmes to safeguard civilians against displacement, to assist and protect IDPs during displacement, and to create conditions that enable durable solutions.

The meeting established two key recommendations: first, ensure that adequate resources are made available through national and sub-national budgets and national development plans; and second, advocate for and mobilise additional flexible and multi-year funding for programmes across the continuum of internal displacement from prevention to durable solutions.

Availability of reliable data

Gathering good-quality data on IDPs and displacement-affected communities for durable solutions planning remains a challenge in the IGAD region. The data that are available are inadequate for several reasons.

First, the data currently collected on displacement are mainly tailored to informing humanitarian responses – and data systems are shaped accordingly. It was generally agreed that displacement data systems need to better address the humanitarian–development–peace/statebuilding nexus to help prevent and address protracted displacement and support sustainable (re)integration. Participants stressed that it was critical to transition to data systems that provide for longitudinal and longer-term information needs in order to better understand IDPs’ profiles and issues by using a multi-stakeholder data system rather than the current humanitarian driven, organisation-based systems. This may for instance require the integration of displacement data into the national statistical system.

Second, at the operational level, organisations conduct assessments for their own rather than joint purposes, using different methodologies and producing data of varying quality.

Third, there is also a lack of joint tools and harmonised processes to assess the contribution of durable solutions programmes and other broader collective outcomes.

Fourth, insofar as IDP data are largely collected by NGOs and UN agencies, it was pointed out that, since comparatively few existing data are produced by governments, the credibility of IDP statistics is sometimes called into question and the existing statistics rarely used or quoted.

Finally, data are rarely collected in remote areas. The result is a fragmented and incomplete understanding of internal displacement, including of the protection and assistance needs of IDPs.

Efforts are being undertaken in the region to improve data availability and usefulness. Ethiopia and Sudan, for example, are coordinating with IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix to share and jointly compile displacement data including multi-sectoral seasonal assessments. Meanwhile, Somalia is developing registration data for IDPs in partnership with stakeholders, and has included displacement indicators in its National Development Plan III in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


While the IGAD exchange in October 2019 provided a platform to share experiences and expertise in supporting resilience and durable solutions to internal displacement, more effort is required to follow up with each Member State on areas of implementation. In particular, efforts need to focus on the importance of adopting and implementing laws, policies and decrees addressing internal displacement; on establishing government leadership and effective multi-stakeholder coordination; on ensuring the availability of adequate and flexible funding resources; and on improving data availability and usefulness. In addition, stakeholders agreed to embrace a long-term approach in addressing and resolving internal displacement by integrating it into national development plans and policies. Their goals in doing so include helping IDPs regain their productivity, establishing peace dialogues to facilitate social cohesion, curbing conflict by the introduction of improved early warning mechanisms, anticipating and mitigating the impact of natural hazards, developing IDP integration mechanisms, ensuring a focus on tenure security, and supporting communities hosting IDPs.


Charles Obila
Migration Officer, IGAD

Ariadna Pop 
Diplomatic Officer, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs


[1] The eight members of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.     

[2] IDMC (2020) Global Report on Internal Displacement 2020

[3] AU Model Law on Internal Displacement

[4] Brookings Institute (2016) ‘Assessing National Approaches to Internal Displacement: Findings from 15 Countries’

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