Shining a Light on Internal Displacement – A Vision for the Future – Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement (Report)
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Shining a Light on Internal Displacement - A Vision for the Future - Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement (Report)

REPORT: At the end of 2020, a staggering 55 million people were living in internal displacement. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) climbed steadily over the past decade, with tens of millions of people forced to fee their homes each year and millions of others already trapped in protracted displacement. Without doubt, this is a global crisis. It is not just a crisis of numbers though, but also of profound human suffering. IDPs are forced from their homes, uprooted from their livelihoods and separated from support networks and family members. Many continue to face significant risks and violations of their rights while in displacement, with women, children and vulnerable and marginalized groups typically experiencing the worst effects. For many IDPs, the prospect of rebuilding their lives remains elusive for years or even generations. More broadly, large-scale protracted displacement is imperiling progress towards development, peace and prosperity for communities and societies as a whole.

While some regions are affected more than others, no nation is spared from the risks of displacement. All around the world, conflict, violence, disasters, climate change and their interactions are driving people from their homes. Human rights violations, development mega-projects and technological disasters also pose significant threats. From our work, however, we have found that the root causes of the global displacement crisis go much deeper. Most crucially, we are struck by the lack of political will to address internal displacement. Too many States fail to acknowledge or take responsibility for their displaced citizens and residents. The United Nations, donor countries and international financial institutions, among others, have also not demonstrated the level of commitment required to overcome this crisis.

As a result, there has been a collective failure to prevent, address and resolve internal displacement. Several intersecting problems contribute to this reality. First, in many cases, there is limited appreciation of the far-reaching costs of inaction on internal displacement. Second, even where the importance of action is understood and political will is present, capacity gaps and operational constraints often impede progress. Third, internal displacement is frequently not prioritized, owned or addressed due to competing agendas. And fourth, despite clearly established responsibilities, including most fundamentally of States to their displaced citizens and residents, there is limited accountability for actors that fail to respond to internal displacement or even cause it in the first place. Meanwhile, other global trends are relentlessly compounding and exacerbating the crisis. These include, among others, the COVID-19 pandemic, the worsening climate crisis and the declining commitment to multilateralism.

As a result of these factors, internal displacement is all too often neglected in Government policies and plans, UN strategies and guidance, development financing, and in public communications and media. This invisibility creates a vicious circle: the less visible IDPs are, the less they are prioritized. And the less they are prioritized, the further they slip into obscurity and neglect. Despite these challenges, however, we believe there is reason for hope. We have been encouraged to see a number of displacement-affected States demonstrate an openness to addressing displacement in their countries. We concluded that, with redoubled efforts to support durable solutions in such contexts, it is possible to achieve a breakthrough for millions of IDPs, host communities and displacement-affected nations.

Building on this, we decided to focus primarily on driving progress in contexts where solutions are within reach. At the same time, without significant improvements to prevention and humanitarian response, this global crisis will never be truly resolved. We thus also explored actions to help prevent and reduce the risks of new displacement and strengthen the quality of protection and assistance to those already displaced. The summary that follows provides an overview of the analysis, conclusions and recommendations set out in our report, as well as our suggestions for follow-up.