The researchers have been examining how internally displaced persons can be better protected

Experts issue “urgent call” for new international forum to help people displaced within their own country

Experts have issued an “urgent call” for a new international forum to help people who are displaced within their own country.

Latest estimates are that 55 million people are thought to be internally displaced worldwide. This means they have been forced to leave their homes to live in another part of their country, because of issues including natural disaster, climate change, conflict, and development projects.

Law academics have said existing mechanisms for country-to-country information sharing about internal displacement are ill-equipped to handle the enormity and complexity of the task.

Writing in Refugee Survey Quarterly, they say internal displacement is insufficiently discussed internationally and that there needs to be a “specific forum” to help states share information and practice – good and bad – and to learn from one another. This would facilitate cooperation and help improve multinational responses when disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes, or conflicts strike.

Better information sharing could ultimately help prevent the discrimination of those who are displaced within their own country.

The experts suggest this platform could sensibly be hosted by the United Nations (UN).

The research was carried out by Dr Ben Hudson, from the University of Exeter Law School, and Dr Bríd Ní Ghráinne, a Senior Researcher at the Judicial Studies Institute, Masaryk University, Czech Republic, and the Institute of International Relations, Prague. The research, which has been conducted under the auspices of the Refugee Law Initiative at the University of London, is informing current discussions of the UN High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, which is due to submit its final recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in September 2021.

The researchers have been examining how internally displaced persons can be better protected. They enjoy fewer bespoke rights in international law when compared to refugees who have travelled to a different country, and it is difficult (and highly controversial) for governments of other States to intervene on their behalf.

Dr Hudson said: “It is important officials are able to discuss, and have reliable information about, those who are internally displaced in other countries, particularly in neighbouring nations. There needs to be an effective way of representatives from around the world engaging in honest and open dialogue, and to be able to share experiences of forced displacement.

“Currently there is no dedicated forum or organisation to talk about these things. Although we believe more use could be made of international human rights platforms and emerging initiatives, now is nonetheless the time for the international community to establish a better platform to talk about experiences and challenges. There is, rightly, a lot of focus on refugees, but there are far more internally displaced persons in the world, and their situation often goes unheard.”

While some limited sharing of experience does occur, Dr Hudson said: “Currently, information sharing is not consistent across the world. While we don’t proclaim to have all the answers as to what this platform should look like, it is important the UN is involved as it can help bring countries together at a time when many may want to hide their internal problems. This can help vulnerable people at a time when their lives are turned upside down or destroyed altogether.”

The research is available as both a full-length academic publication and a three-page research briefing.

Date: 29 June 2021