International Standards

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2) (other languages), which constitute the key international standard on internal displacement worldwide, restate and compile human rights and humanitarian law relevant to internally displaced persons.

Background to the Guiding Principles

In 1993, at the request of the Commission on Human Rights, prior Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons Francis M. Deng prepared his first study (E/CN.4/1993/35 Annex) of international standards relevant to internally displaced persons (IDPs). In a more comprehensive two-volume study presented in 1996 (E/CN.4/1996/52/Add.2) and 1998 (E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.1), Representative Deng concluded that existing law provided broad protection for the rights of internally displaced persons, but that there were also certain grey areas and gaps in coverage.

With the encouragement of the Commission of Human Rights (E/CN.4/RES/1996/52, para. 9) and the General Assembly, Representative Deng proceeded to develop a document setting out the relevant law and addressing the grey areas and gaps, with the help of a team of international legal scholars chaired by Mr. Walter Kälin. The resulting Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were presented to the Commission on Human Rights in 1998.

The Commission has expressed its appreciation of the Guiding Principles as an important tool for dealing with internal displacement, and has welcomed the fact that an increasing number of States, United Nations agencies and regional and non-governmental organizations are applying them as a standard (E/CN.4/RES/2004/55, operative paragraph 6).

A handbook and legal annotations (the latter authored by Mr. Kälin) were subsequently developed to make the Guiding Principles more accessible.

20th Anniversary of the Guiding Principles

In 2018, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons dedicated her report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/38/39) to a review of the progress achieved, the ongoing challenges and the necessary actions to be taken by all stakeholders in the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. In October the same year, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched the GP20, a three-year multi-stakeholder plan of action to reduce and resolve internal displacement through prevention, protection and solutions for internally displaced persons consistent with the Guiding Principles.

In 2019, the Special Rapporteur presented a report to the Human Rights Council containing the GP20 Plan of Action and an overview of the activities envisaged and thus far undertaken under the GP20. In October 2020, an intersessional seminar to follow up on the implementation of the Plan of Action was convened by OHCHR as requested by the Human Rights Council in its Resolution 41/15. The Special Rapporteur moderated the seminar, which had the participation of a wide range of stakeholders.

As the GP20 successfully concluded at the end of 2020, stakeholders will continue to collaborate under a new chapter provisionally entitled GP2.0 for joint initiatives and events as well as sharing of information and good practices on internal displacement. Expressions of interest to join this group are welcome at any time and from any constituency and membership. For more information, please contact the GP2.0 secretariat at gp2.0@unhcr.org  

Guiding Principles

Legal Bases for the Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles are based in part on the following instruments:

Essential Standards and Frameworks: