Protection for internally displaced persons (IDPs) ultimately entails ensuring a durable solution to their plight. In my country missions and dialogues with governments and other actors I have always given strong focus to the search for durable solutions for people forcibly uprooted from their homes. In some cases, the possibility of return opens up with the signing of a peace agreement. In other cases, new and creative approaches need to be found when political solutions remain out of sight decades after people first were forced from their homes. Even in new situations of internal displacement, it is important to begin to consider durable solutions for the displaced. Creating and supporting the conditions to enable durable solutions is an essential element of national responsibility for addressing internal displacement.
Yet determining when exactly IDPs attain a durable solution and no longer need to be the focus of specific attention has not always been so clear. In the absence of agreed upon criteria as to when an IDP should cease to be considered as such, approaches have varied, or have been ad hoc, even arbitrary, reflecting dramatically different conclusions among the different national and international actors. However, the way the question is answered and addressed can have serious ramifications for IDPs. It can lead to the termination of assistance and of a shift of attention away from the particular risks and vulnerabilities associated with internal displacement. Alternatively, especially in protracted situations, insistence that people remain “IDPs” can undermine their ability to integrate into society and resume their lives.
Appreciating “the need for a coherent response”, in 2001 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) turned to my predecessor, the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng, to provide guidance. Specifically he was asked “when generically an individual would not only become an IDP but…should no longer be considered under this category.” United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies, as well as governments, donors, regional organizations and civil society around the world also were interested in receiving advice on “when displacement ends.” Specifically, they wanted to know when protection and assistance activities for IDPs would no longer be considered necessary as the IDPs could be said to enjoy access to protection and assistance on a par with the rest of the population.
To answer the question of when displacement ends, an extensive inquiry was undertaken at the request of the Representative by the Brookings Institution Project on Internal Displacement and the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. Spearheaded by Erin Mooney and Susan Martin, a series of broad-based consultations -- with governments, donors, international agencies and NGOs, civil society and IDP organizations -- were held in order to gain the perspectives of a wide variety of actors. Indeed, the hallmark of the process was its broad collective nature. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council was a close collaborator. The active engagement and generous support of the Canadian International Development Agency and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Switzerland was critical to the process and is deeply appreciated.
Initially the consultations explored the issue through three lenses. The first was the normative framework, namely the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (see The Legal Dimension). Second, the refugee experience by analogy was explored, though the relevance of this approach had been found to be somewhat limited given the different legal situation of persons displaced in their own country (see Discussion Paper and Summary Reports). The third lens was to look at a number of specific case studies of internal displacement. Different types and phases of displacement were considered, in particular emergencies, post-conflict situations and cases of protracted displacement (see Summary Reports). While the focus of the research and discussions was primarily on displacement due to conflict and serious violations of human rights, it was recognized that displacement caused by natural disasters and development-induced displacement would need to be considered, though perhaps because of the particular issues involved might require different sets of criteria.
Three possible approaches to the question -- cause-oriented, needs-focused and solutions-based -- were developed and tested in the consultations: a) cause-based (whether the cause that compelled flight had changed); b) needs-focused (whether IDPs still had needs emanating from their displacement); and c)solutions-based (whether the displaced had returned, integrated locally, or settled in another part of the country) – see Criteria. The consensus to emerge was that while each approach shed light on important aspects of the issue, no one approach adequately covered its complexity. The resulting preference was for particular weight to be given to a blend of needs-focused and solutions-based approaches (see Summary Reports; see also the Forced Migration Review’s special issue on “When does internal displacement end?”, May 2003).
The culmination of the process was the development of a Framework for Durable Solutions, which shows that the ending of displacement occurs not at one point in time but is a gradual process during which the need for specialized assistance and protection for IDPs begins to diminish. Drafted by Susan Martin, the Framework sets forth a series of steps for determining solutions to situations of internal displacement. Specifically it addresses the problems IDPs may face in different situations and proposes solutions to accord with respect for their human rights. Guidance as to how to apply the Framework is provided by the two flowcharts that are attached (prepared by Erin Mooney and UNHCR).
The Framework was finalized at a series of meetings with international organizations, NGOs and experts. My adviser in New York, Claudine Haenni, reviewed the Framework with member organizations of the UN’s Protection Cluster Working Group. In December 2006, I presented it to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, and in March 2007 the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Working Group welcomed the Framework. The IASC Working Group recommended its incorporation into the humanitarian work of international organizations “as a pilot” that should be revisited in one or two years, after field-testing. The Working Group also encouraged UN Humanitarian Coordinators to use the Framework “to determine when IDPs no longer have needs that differ from the population around them.”
The Framework is intended to assist governments in devising national legislation, policies and programs that promote solutions to internal displacement. It also is expected to provide guidance to international organizations to assist their work in different country contexts, in particular to promote a coherent transition from humanitarian aid to reconstruction and development as well as to provide a framework for assisting governments in devising national legislation, policies and programs that promote solutions to internal displacement. The Framework also should enable civil society organizations to monitor the extent to which governments fulfill their responsibility to find durable solutions for IDPs and as a basis for their own work promoting the creation of conditions enabling these solutions.
Because the Framework is to be refined over the next year, I would very much welcome comments and reactions from readers. This publication is intended to present the Framework to a wide audience. It aims to provide readers with an understanding of the process and the discussions that led to the development of the Framework. It therefore includes the key background papers and summary reports of the meetings, edited by Roberta Cohen, co-founder and former Co-Director of the Brookings Project on Internal Displacement. It is my hope that the publication will stimulate international discussion and that all actors dealing with situations of internal displacement will carefully review the Framework and find in it practical guidance for promoting, supporting and ensuring durable solutions for the millions of internally displaced the world over.
Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons