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Shining a Light on Internal Displacement: A Vision for the Future

Shining a Light on Internal Displacement

A Vision for the Future

The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement’s report advocates for nationally owned solutions for more than 55 million people displaced within their own countries. It also highlight’s the MMC’s efforts provide longterm funding directly to municipalities to address human mobility.

This article first appeared on The UN’s website. MMC engages in content partnerships with several organizations, and cross-posting does not indicate an endorsement or agreement.


We began our work as the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement at an inaugural meeting in February 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland. We did not know it at the time, but the world was about to change. Just days later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. To keep ourselves safe and protect our families, many of us were able to stay at home and limit our movements. For tens of millions of other people though, the risks posed by the virus were outweighed by the threats of war, violence and disasters, or a tragic combination of factors. For them, staying at home was not an option. Flight was the only way to find safety.

As we submit our report to Secretary-General António Guterres, the internal displacement crisis continues and even deepens. The title of the report – ‘Shining a Light on Internal Displacement: A Vision for the Future’ – reflects the two main preoccupations that drove our work. First, internal displacement has largely dropped off the international agenda over the past decade. Despite commitments to ‘leave no one behind’ as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are often invis-ible and marginalized at national, regional and international levels. Second, business as usual is patently not acceptable. Concrete and measurable improvements in prevention, response and solutions to internal displacement must be achieved.

We decided to focus, above all, on the millions of people trapped in protracted displace-ment and the imperative to help them find durable solutions. We dedicated our attention principally to contexts where the State has demonstrated a degree of willingness to address internal displacement. We strongly believe that by redoubling efforts to support solutions in such contexts, it is possible to achieve a breakthrough for millions of IDPs, host communities and displacement-affected nations. However, achieving this will require fundamental changes to the current approach to solutions. Among other elements, far greater emphasis has to be placed on working with and through Government systems to ensure that IDPs and host communities benefit from the protection and support of the State that is rightfully theirs.

Delivering on this approach calls for a change in mindset, working methods and institu-tional arrangements across both national and international actors. National ownership, responsibility and accountability must be brought to the forefront and States must recognize IDPs and host communities as rights-holding citizens and residents of their country. There is a need to go beyond addressing internal displacement as only a humanitarian crisis and understand that it is directly linked to broader challenges of governance, development, human rights and peace. It is also closely tied to the interconnected realities of climate change, urbanization and fragility. In this context, development, peace and disaster risk reduction actors must be engaged earlier, systematically and comprehensively, and much better use must also be made of the capacities of the private sector and civil society. These efforts must draw on strong data and evidence. All of this requires adequate financing.

We strongly believe that this change in direction will have transformative effects for IDPs, displacement-affected communities and their countries. Progress on solutions will also free capacity and resources that are urgently needed for emergency situations. To truly address the full spectrum of displacement challenges, however, dedicated attention is also needed to strengthening prevention and improving protection and responses.

Making major improvements to the global internal displacement crisis will not be an easy task. Among the many challenges, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt and could push internal displacement even further down the list of global priorities. Galvanizing States, the United Nations, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and international financial institutions to change their ways of working and address internal displacement as an urgent priority could become even more difficult.

Internal displacement is, however, too important to neglect. By working together and building momentum for change, the crisis can be overcome. IDPs, host communities and Governments must be able to count upon the steadfast commitment of the inter-national community.

This report is the culmination of extensive consultations, inputs and deliberations. We are immensely grateful to all those who contributed to this effort. We extend our sincerest appreciation, first and foremost, to the IDPs and host community members who shared their experiences, challenges and aspirations with us. We are also grateful to the States, UN entities, NGOs, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, private sector leaders, representatives of international financial institutions, researchers and others who offered invaluable insights, analysis and recommendations. We thank Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States for their contributions towards the financial requirements of the process. And, turning to the core team supporting the Panel’s work, we are immensely indebted to our esteemed Expert Advisers who worked in close partnership with us throughout this process, and to the Panel’s Secretariat for their tireless support.

To the United Nations Secretary-General, we are honoured that you entrusted us with such a profound responsibility. We hope that we have lived up to the expectations for this Panel and that our report helps to move the internal displacement issue – and above all the lives of the internally displaced – towards a better future.

Federica Mogherini, Co-Chair
Donald Kaberuka, Co-Chair


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