What is GP20? We remember that Year 2018 commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Guidelines on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement produced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) ‘there were 31.1 million new internal displacements by conflict, violence and disasters in 2016. This is the equivalent of one person forced to flee every second’.
We know that considerable work has been done and achievements made over the last 20 years by the international community in addressing and advancing the cause of IDPs and finding permanent solutions for them through the work of the Office of the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as well as through Civil Society Organizations, International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs), National Non-Government Organizations (NNGOs) and Regional Human Rights Organizations. Credit also goes to UN specialized agencies who have contributed to providing expertise and support to finding solutions for IDPs. Finally, there is the academia such as the Brookings Institution and the London School of Economics (LSE) that have helped take forward the definition, interpretation, understanding and application in ‘Protecting and Assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)’. Details concerning support to IDPs may be found in the respective websites of these organizations and institutes.
On this important occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the IDP Guidelines referred to in United Nations ‘parlance and working circles as GP20’, I would like to share my thoughts in paying tribute to and remembering the longsuffering of millions of IDPs in all continents of the world, including those affected and displaced by climate change and other natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, landslides and Tsunamis. IDPs generally live outside their homes, away from their natural zones of comfort and without any full-fledged physical or international legal regime to protect them from internal strife and conflict while also subjected to social injustices, hate and discriminatory attitudes, physical and mental abuse and the risks of violence and killings. The IDPs are never able to enjoy basic human rights like ordinary people and importantly the right to live in peace like most of us, to develop themselves and the future of their children. The often lack of access to food, shelter, sanitation, health, education for children and woefully inadequate daily livelihood needs challenge their daily existence as human beings who have right to life, freedom, education, development, peace and justice. The human dignity and decency of girls, boys and women are furthermore violated with IDPs falling prey to traffickers, unscrupulous persons and gangs and sometimes, shockingly so, even by law enforcement authorities who are supposed to protect them in the first place, instilling fear and perpetuating sexual and gender-based violence and other humanly degrading acts, including forced sex, child marriages and sexual abuse and discrimination of boys and LGBTI persons.
To be displaced within one’s own country is sad and tantamount to being forcefully pushed out of one’s own home. Imagine this happening to you or me. In displacement you are in effect also losing your home, perhaps your family, your dignity, your rights, your individuality and your happiness in life! This is in effect the actual plight of most IDPs. How is this possible and what if there is no easy restitution of property or possibility of returning home, and how can IDPs be helped to regain their rights? Would you like if this happens to you? This is an important area where the State can step in through the ‘rule of law’ to restitute property and reinstate the dignity of its people.
If people are unhappy then it is the States that will ultimately suffer from loss of vital human contribution to national productivity. Displacement also impacts families resulting in unwanted or forced family separations and hardships. Hopelessness sets in when you become an IDP with happiness snatched away from your life for something you may have never done forcing you to live away from home in sub-normal, if not appalling and even inhuman living conditions. All you would aspire at that point in time would be to be able to return home to resume a normal and peaceful life. Let us think about the plight of these tens of millions of IDPs yearning to return home. Think how each one of us may be able to offer that needed helping hand.
In situations of climatic or other natural disasters occurring where large-scale displacements take place, solutions should be found by States for the suffering populations through reprioritizing national funding to help people in their relief and recovery. Nobody in need should be left out and if required, international humanitarian assistance is normally available to supplement national efforts.
States must be ready to take responsibility for internal population displacements taking place causing hardships to their citizens for reasons of internal strife or conflict, be it ideological, religious, political, social or economic. The aim of States must be to focus on the protection of its citizens and people ordinarily resident in their countries and put in place response capacity measures to mitigate people becoming internally displaced. It is not worth it for any State to prolong people displacement, referred to in relief jargon as protracted situations, especially considering that life is too short and what counts at the end of the day is the happiness of individuals, families, communities who contribute to national development and national prosperity.
To avoid unjustified wars and conflicts for gaining power and global influence, States must make sure that the purchase and sale of armaments take place exclusively for purposes of maintaining national law and order and securing the defense, safety and security of national borders from external aggression and not fall into wrong hands, particularly that of non-state actors, to be used and abused against innocent civilians, particularly children, women and girls.
In sharing the scare resources of our beloved mother Earth for further enrichment of our human values and safeguarding of our hard-fought human existence and heritage that is vital for the continued existence of humankind, we should be motivated to live in peace with all nations and peoples of this world. Nations need to move forward in peace and harmony with human and economic development going hand in hand for the betterment of humanity and society at large while preserving the gifts of nature and the eco-system to make this world a better place for all to live which is what the United Nations strives for.
Let us collectively commit ourselves to the cause of IDPs and be part of the global solutions in favor of IDPs through commemorating and remembering them on GP20.
International Humanitarian Consultant and INTERSOS Representative
to UNOG and other International Organizations in Geneva