Internally Displaced Persons
Internally displaced persons, or IDPs, have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, etc.), unlike refugees, IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government - even though that government might be the cause of their flight.
As citizens, IDPs retain all of their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law. At the end of 2012, there were an estimated 28.8 million IDPs spread across more than 40 countries; 6.5 million were displaced by violence in 2012 alone, compared to 3.5 million in 2011. The countries with the largest numbers of displaced populations included: Colombia (4.9-5.5 million), Syria (3 million), DRC (2.7 million), Sudan (2.2 million), Iraq (2.1 million), and Somalia (1.1-1.36 million). Click here for an interactive map, prepared by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (ICMC), showing where IDPs are located around the world.
There is not an international convention that sets forward standards for international protection of IDPS, unlike conventions ratified for refugees and stateless persons. In an effort to create some international standards for this vulnerable population, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were developed and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998. These Guiding Principles have sparked regional conventions such as the Great Lakes Pact of 2008, in which 11 countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa committed to adopt and implement the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and the historic Kampala Convention, ratified by the African Union in 2009 and entering into force in 2012, thus binding member governments to provide protection for the internally displaced. In addition, the Guiding Principles have led to the adoption of IDP standards by many international organizations, NGOs, and governments, including the 2010 UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons.
To learn more about IDPs, see the extensive resources these organizations provide:
Photo credit: (Top) UNHCR/S.Modola; (Right) UNHCR/H.Macleod
Photo caption: (Top) Congolese civilians carry their belongings as they escape fighting last year between government forces and the M23 rebel group in North Kivu province; (Right) Young Yemenis shelter in a northern Yemen camp after being displaced by fighting.