About the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons

The Human Rights Council appointed the first Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in September 2010, with the same functions as the former Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of IDPs. The mandate was most recently renewed in 2019, through Resolution A/HRC/RES/41/15.

According to this resolution, the Special Rapporteur is charged with:

  1. Addressing the complex problem of internal displacement, in particular by mainstreaming the human rights of the internally displaced into all relevant parts of the United Nations system;
  2. Working towards strengthening the international response to the complex problem of internal displacement due to reasons including armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations and disasters, and to engage in coordinated international advocacy and action for improving protection and respect of the human rights of internally displaced persons, while continuing and enhancing inclusive dialogue with Governments, intergovernmental, regional and non-governmental organizations and other relevant actors.

The Special Rapporteur is also requested to continue efforts to further the dissemination, promotion and application of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Human Rights Council and the previous Commission on Human Rights, as well as the General Assembly, have regularly adopted resolutions regarding the mandate and internally displaced persons.

Current Strategic and Thematic Priorities of the Special Rapporteur

At the beginning of taking up her duties on 1 November 2016, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, undertook a series of bilateral consultations with key stakeholders in order to shape the strategic priorities and main thematic priorities for the three years of work as mandate-holder.

The Special Rapporteur decided to undertake a number of activities to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in 2018 which offered an important opportunity to raise awareness of this global standard and of the plight of internally displaced persons in all regions of the world.

In line with her strategic priorities and in addition to the core focus areas of the mandate, the Special Rapporteur decided to dedicate her thematic reports to the following thematic issues:

  1. Strengthening the participation of internally displaced persons in responses to internal displacement
  2. Ensuring the inclusion of internally displaced persons in transitional justice mechanisms and peace processes as part of durable solutions
  3. Improving the protection of internally displaced children and internally displaced persons with disabilities
  4. Enhancing the role of national human rights institutions and other relevant human rights actors in the protection of internally displaced persons
  5. Addressing neglected drivers of displacement, including development projects, generalized violence and disasters linked to the slow-onset adverse effects of climate change
  6. Housing, land and property issues in the context of internal displacement
  7. Prevention of the conditions leading to internal displacement

Methods of work

In the discharged of these functions, the Special Rapporteur engages in a number of activities:

1. Promoting respect for the human rights of internally displaced persons

Advocacy. The Special Rapporteur holds dialogues with Governments, international organizations, and also NGOs and other non-state actors as appropriate, to raise awareness on and enhance the protection of the human rights of IDPs and address violations of the human rights of IDPs, including through personal and written contact, and, when suitable, public statements.

Disseminating the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Special Rapporteur promotes awareness of and dialogue about the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2), including through supporting their translation and wide dissemination and the convening of seminars with governments, international organizations, regional bodies and NGOs.

Promoting national policies and laws on internal displacement. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur encourages the development of national laws and policies on internal displacement and, to this end has developed a domestic policy-maker’s handbook to assist Governments"Protecting Internally Displaced Persons: A Manual for Law and Policymakers" (October 2008). The handbook draws upon the expertise of international legal experts and domestic policy makers from different parts of the world and defines the elements that should be addressed in a national legal or policy framework on internal displacement.

Deepening understanding about IDPs’ rights. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur contributes to the courses on law and policy relating to internal displacement offered by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, which is attended by high-level military and civil Government officials from different parts of the world. The Special Rapporteur also sponsors research into specific topics related to the human rights of IDPs and how they can be best translated into policy.

2. Dialogue with Governments, non-governmental organizations and other actors

Undertaking country missions. The Special Rapporteur undertakes country missions each year to inquire into the human rights and protection issues of IDPs with relevant authorities, civil society, international actors and IDPs themselves and to develop recommendations for solving ongoing problems.

Engaging in dialogue with Government representatives. The Special Rapporteur engages in dialogue with Government representatives while on country visits as well as with diplomatic representatives in New York, Geneva, and in regional and other fora.

Convening national seminars. The Special Rapporteur convenes or supports national seminars in affected countries to bring together Government representatives, civil society, international and regional bodies to develop a more effective national response. The Special Rapporteur also convenes meetings in other venues to focus attention on specific situations and issues of internal displacement.

Supporting national human rights institutions. The Special Rapporteur encourages national human rights institutions to integrate internal displacement into their work through technical assistance and other support.

Engaging non-State actors. The Special Rapporteur also seeks to engage non-state actors (armed groups) in a human rights dialogue and promote their compliance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Partnerships with civil society. The Special Rapporteur works with civil society partners around the world to support their efforts in promoting and protecting the rights of IDPs. Collaborative projects include: the development of studies, reports, handbooks and other materials on the rights of IDPs; courses, lectures or workshops that raise awareness and enhance responses to internal displacement; supporting human rights monitoring by IDPs; and outreach campaigns on the rights of IDPs.

Giving a voice to IDPs. The Special Rapporteur seeks to give a voice and ensure participation of IDPs in the mandate's activities, including during country visits.

3. Strengthening the international response to internal displacement

Raising human rights and protection concerns at the international level. With a view to ensuring the effectiveness of the international response to internal displacement, the Special Rapporteur draws attention to situations where existing protection arrangements would need to be enhanced, particularly through her mission reports and participation in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee * and other inter-agency fora. The Special Rapporteur works closely with the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ,* the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ,* and other relevant agencies and organizations to identify solutions for addressing gaps in international responses to the rights and needs of IDPs.

Integrating IDP issues into the work of regional organizations. The Special Rapporteur seeks to integrate responses to regional IDP problems into the work of regional organizations. In partnership with these organizations, the Special Rapporteur supports the convening of regional seminars and the development of policies and programs to benefit IDPs.

4. Mainstreaming the human rights of IDPs in the UN system

Strengthening cooperation with OHCHR, Treaty Bodies and other Special Procedures. The Special Rapporteur works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and collaborates with the Human Rights Council's country and thematic procedures to raise the visibility of IDP issues within the scope of their mandates, and encourages systematic attention to these issues by the human rights treaty bodies.

Integrating attention to IDPs’ human rights into the work of UN agencies, departments and programs. The Special Rapporteur lends her expertise on IDPs’ human rights to other relevant agencies, departments and offices of the UN to assist their development of programs and policies in conformity with international norms and the needs of IDPs. The Special Rapporteur reaches beyond humanitarian actors to also address political, peacekeeping, development and financial actors.

Inter-agency advocacy. The Special Rapporteur engages inter-agency fora, including the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, to which the Special Rapporteur is a standing invitee, on specific country and thematic issues and concerns of IDP human rights. The Special Rapporteur also provides support when needed in the development of system-wide policies and procedures.

The Special Rapporteur submits annual reports to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly *.

* OHCHR is not responsible for the content of any external websites.

Background of the mandate

In 1992, the Secretary-General, at the request of the Commission on Human Rights, appointed his first Representative on internally displaced persons (IDPs). In April 2004, the Commission called upon the Secretary-General to create a new mechanism to build on the work of the prior Representative and to bring a further focus on the human rights of internally displaced persons. Accordingly, in September 2004, the Secretary-General appointed his new Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Subsequently, the Human Rights Council appointed in September 2010 a first Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, commencing his functions on November 1, 2010. While the title of the mandate holder changed, the functions of the mandate-holder and the mandate itself have remained essentially the same. The Special Rapporteur continued to build upon the work of his predecessors in raising awareness of IDP rights issues, promoting and disseminating the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (E.CN.4/1998/53/Add.2) at the national, regional and international levels, undertaking country missions, convening national and regional seminars, providing support for capacity building and conducting policy-oriented research. The Special Rapporteur's mandate is supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.