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With 71 million people internally displaced across the world, States must look beyond the numbers: UN expert

04 July 2023

GENEVA (4 July 2023) – The global number of internally displaced persons reached an unprecedented high in 2022, with over 71 million people displaced across countries and continents, a UN expert said today.

“The numbers alone can never encapsulate the scale, magnitude, complexity, and enormous human suffering confronted by internally displaced persons,” said Paula Gaviria, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Calling it a “sobering reality”, the UN expert said that more people than ever are being forced to flee within their own countries, driven from their homes by conflict, violence, disaster, climate change, and human rights abuses.

“Behind the numbers are lives and personal histories of individuals who have been uprooted from their homes and survived unimaginable human rights violations and abuses,” Gaviria said in her first report to the Human Rights Council.

“Displacement shatters lives for years and generations, creates severe hardship and suffering, breaks up families, cuts social and cultural ties, disrupts education and development, denies access to vital necessities, and exposes innocents to abhorrent human rights abuses,” the expert said.

Gaviria said that her role as an independent UN expert was crucial to strengthening international responses to the complex problem of internal displacement.

She said the primary responsibility of States to prevent internal displacement and provide protection and solutions for internally displaced persons comes with a complex set of human rights, humanitarian, development, peacebuilding and climate change adaptation challenges, and remains to be universally fulfilled.

“I will continue advocating for targeted policies to address the root causes of displacement to ensure that no displaced person or displaced group is left further behind as a result of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including on the basis of gender, disability, race or ethnicity, minority status, sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur also vowed to amplify the voices of internally displaced persons and involve displaced and host communities in the responses and solutions that affect them.

“I will raise the plight of internally displaced persons on the international agenda and advocate for access to remedies and restitution of housing, land, and property rights as crucial elements for lasting solutions, for rebuilding lives and promoting social cohesion,” Gaviria said.

Going forward, the Special Rapporteur has identified four thematic priorities as interlinked challenges across multiple geographic contexts and throughout all phases of the displacement cycle: internal displacement resulting from generalised violence; peace processes, peace agreements and peacebuilding and internal displacement; climate change and internal displacement; and the integration and reintegration of internally displaced persons.

The Special Rapporteur said the Human Rights Council has a pivotal role to play in promoting and protecting the rights of internally displaced persons and holding States accountable for their responsibilities.


Paula Gaviria Betancur is the  Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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