To Leave No One Behind, Brief Calls for Considering IDPs in SDG Implementation
UN Photo/Martine Perret
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A brief from the International Peace Institute explores the links between internal displacement and the SDGs, highlights ongoing efforts to address the longer-term needs of IDPs, looks at the specific cases of Nigeria and Iraq, and provides recommendations.

The brief notes that the 2030 Agenda specifically mentions IDPs as a vulnerable group that must be empowered through efforts to implement the SDGs.

The authors report that 37 States sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General in July 2018 asking him to appoint a high-level panel on IDPs in order to bring attention to existing efforts and galvanize continuing action.

29 November 2018: Marking 20 years of existence of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the International Peace Institute (IPI) released an issue brief on internally displaced persons (IDPs). The brief recommends that States with high levels of internal displacement address the needs of IDPs in their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that countries include information on IDPs in their voluntary national reviews (VNRs).

Authored by Alice Debarre, Archibald Henry and Masooma Rahmaty, IPI, the brief explores links between internal displacement and the SDGs, highlights ongoing efforts to address the longer-term needs of IDPs, looks at the specific cases of Nigeria and Iraq, and provides recommendations for ways forward. The brief titled, ‘Reaching Internally Displaced Persons to Achieve the 2030 Agenda,’ notes the need to understand international displacement as a long-term challenge that requires coordinated and complementary approaches by humanitarian and development actors.

The authors define IDPs as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence… and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border,” in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Guiding Principles were introduced in 1998 by the UN Special Representative on IDPs and represent an international framework that “authoritatively restates the rights” of IDPs, as enshrined in international human rights and humanitarian law. The 30 principles cover IDPs’ needs during displacement, return, resettlement and reintegration, and have gained broad international acceptance and authority, although they were never officially adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights or the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The brief recalls that the 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind” and highlights IDPs as a vulnerable group that must be empowered through efforts to implement the SDGs. While there are no SDG targets or indicators specifically related to internal displacement, the brief notes, the 2030 Agenda presents an opportunity to build on existing efforts and ensure that the plight of IDPs is addressed in both the short and long terms. It states that many of the SDGs are directly related to IDPs, and including IDPs in policies to implement the SDGs could help reduce the occurrence and impact of displacement and ensure that IDPs contribute to local economies and economic growth. In this regard, the authors report that Nigeria has included IDPs in its VNR, and linked the issue particularly with SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals).

The authors also remark that neither the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration nor the Global Compact for Refugees address the issue of internal displacement. They explain that some States perceive international attention to IDP issues as an infringement on their sovereignty and have therefore been reluctant to address it in multilateral fora.

The brief reports that, as of May 2018, there are over 40 million IDPs due to conflict and violence in the world, which is nearly twice the number of refugees worldwide. Also, since they are displaced within national borders, IDPs do not benefit from the legal status of refugees and its associated protections, and fall outside of the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Among other challenges to addressing IDPs’ needs, the authors note that the different funding streams of humanitarian and development actors and the existing field architecture for UN agencies inhibit efforts to operationalize the humanitarian-development nexus, while being not conducive to joint action or collective outcomes. The authors also cite inadequate collection, processing, and sharing of data on IDPs, and the fact that supporting IDPs is not traditionally perceived as a development issue and is insufficiently included in development strategy and planning.

On initiatives that have been taken at the international level regarding IDPs, the authors outline: the April 2018 launch of the multistakeholder ‘GP20 Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced People 2018– 2020;’ the development, by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), of a framework for addressing internal displacement; and the establishment, in 2018, of a UN Joint Steering Committee in charge of advancing humanitarian and development collaboration and assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, following the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to reform the UN development system.

The brief also notes that 37 States sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General in July 2018 asking him to appoint a high-level panel on IDPs in order to bring attention to existing efforts and galvanize continuing action. [Publication: Reaching Internally Displaced Persons to Achieve the 2030 Agenda] [Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement]

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