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Internal displacement in Africa: A development challenge
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
(IDMC)
October 21, 2012

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Introduction

This brochure is a result of a knowledge and learning initiative on human rights and forced displacement, carried out by the IDMC, the the Institute of Public Law of the University of Bern and managed by the World Bank/Global Program on Forced Displacement. The purpose of this brochure is to provide guidance on how to integrate human rights approaches into development responses to forced displacement. The lessons of this booklet are derived from an analytical study on internal displacement in Africa, produced by the 'the Institute of Public Law of the University of Bern. The brochure has been presented and discussed at a workshop organized by the African Union Commission.

Internally displaced people (IDPs) "are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border" (1998, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement). As of the end of 2011, more than 26 million people were internally displaced by conflict and violence across the world. More than a third of them were in Africa, the region with the highest number of IDPs and where they outnumber refugees by five to one. Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Somalia have the continent's largest populations of internally displaced people. Large numbers of people in Africa have also been internally displaced by natural disasters, especially drought.

Internal displacement situations are often fluid, with new displacements and movements of people in search of a durable solution sometimes happening at the same time. Preventing new displacement is as much of a challenge as resolving existing situations. In a number of African countries, IDPs live in protracted displacement; their process of finding a durable solution has stalled, often leaving their rights unprotected and their communities marginalised. The former Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of IDPs, Walter Kälin, has observed that IDPs in many African countries are often worse off when humanitarian organisations withdraw following an emergency, leaving them without any real prospects of rebuilding their lives in a sustainable manner.

A father who had been internally displaced for over a decade in northern Uganda told Kälin in 2009: "I don't need food aid. I need help in clearing my land, a shovel and seeds. And some rain." In essence, he said that internal displacement was not only a humanitarian, human rights or peace-building challenge, but also a development one.

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