Report on the protection of internally displaced children

31 July 2019
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons
To the GA at its 74th session, October 2019


In the present report, the Special Rapporteur seeks to highlight the situation of internally displaced children who are suffering and dying because of the lack of rapid and appropriate responses to their specific needs and protection concerns and the lack of capacity and resources to fill protection gaps on the part of humanitarian actors. The Special Rapporteur calls for renewed attention on improving the protection of internally displaced children, with a focus on concrete outcomes, and makes a number of recommendations to States and other actors.

Although the exact number of children living in internal displacement worldwide is unknown, at least 17 million1 were estimated to have been displaced worldwide by conflict and violence within their own countries by the end of 2018. Countless more had been displaced by disasters. Five million youth between the ages of 18 and 24 were also estimated to be living in internal displacement.

Internal displacement often threatens the physical, mental and social aspects of a child’s life. When internal displacement occurs, family and community structures are likely to break down and traditional institutions tend to disintegrate, placing displaced children at greater risk of various forms of exploitation, abuse and neglect. Displacement is a process of loss, and internally displaced children lose the protective environment around them. The Special Rapporteur highlights the protection issues encountered by internally displaced children and calls for strengthening child protection systems in full respect for the rights of children and putting their best interests at the heart of decisions.

The Special Rapporteur also highlights the obstacles often faced by children to achieve durable solutions to their displacement. The Special Rapporteur stresses that children’s perspectives on preferences for durable solutions may different from those of other internally displaced persons, and calls for the full participation of displaced children and youth in planning for durable solutions.


The report builds on the paper entitled “The rights and guarantees of internally displaced children in armed conflict”.2 It also benefited from extensive consultations with other partners, including the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and experts from the Child Protection Area of Responsibility, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Joint Internally Displaced Person Profiling Service, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Global Protection Cluster, the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Assistance and non-governmental organizations, including through their participation in an expert meeting held in Geneva in March 2019 and in a side event in June 2019 during the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council, and written feedback. The Special Rapporteur would like to thank all who contributed, including Member States and in particular internally displaced children themselves, for sharing their views.

Side event to the General Assembly

On 24 October 2019, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with UNICEF, UNHCR, the GP20 Plan of Action and the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, organized a High-Level side event to the General Assembly on Protecting Internally Displaced Children.

1 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Protecting and supporting internally displaced children in urban settings” (July 2019).
2 Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Working Paper, No. 2 (New York, United Nations, 2010).