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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs SegmentHigh-level panel on Mobilizing action to improve humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons and achieve durable solutions

11 June 2020

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Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Practical steps to better promote durable solutions for IDPs and the communities that host them: lessons learned on what works and what does not

11 June 2020


Greetings. The pandemic has changed many of our working methods and communications, but it is good to see that it has not dimmed our shared commitment to upholding the equality and rights of people around the world.

To provide real and durable solutions for people who have been forced to flee their lands and homes, we need first to understand them as human beings, with dignity and rights.

They remain nationals of their countries, and they are entitled to full respect of their rights, which their Governments are legally obligated to fulfill.

Notably, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide for their right to pursue a durable solution of their choice – whether through return, local integration, or settlement elsewhere.

Internally displaced people have a right to equality and non-discrimination. In addition, they have a right to full and informed participation in all decisions affecting them. This may include their right to participate in transitional justice mechanisms; in processes to restore their land and property; and in peacebuilding. I am encouraged by the recent acceptance of important human rights recommendations regarding IDPs' access to education; review of land laws; and ratification of the Kampala Convention, by many countries with large IDP populations reviewed in the Human Rights Council. They include Afghanistan, Colombia, the DRC, Iraq, Nigeria and Yemen.      

Durable and effective solutions to internal displacement must rest on the solid ground of justice, dignity and rights.  

  • The participation of displaced people is vital to identifying the best and most desired solutions to meet their needs, while participation by host communities may help diminish discrimination. In addition, internally displaced people should participate in processes to address the root causes of displacement, and responses to COVID-19, among other crucial issues.
  • Internally displaced people are not a homogenous group; particular attention to specific needs is a must. Actions must ensure that women and girls, people with disabilities, older people and others can raise their voices and make known their choices and concerns. Services must be inclusive, and disaggregated data should make visible and monitor their situations, including with respect to COVID-19. Globally, we have developed a human rights indicators framework for the response to COVID-19, with specific indicators and operational steps to monitor the situation of migrants, IDPs and refugees. In Somalia, where we issued a report with UNSOM last year on participation of internally displaced people in State and peace-building processes, the Human Rights and Protection Group will support development of human rights-based data collection to assess the impact of the pandemic.
  • Addressing root causes is the only way to avoid repeated cycles of displacement. In Ethiopia, to prevent tensions and further displacement, my Office has conducted awareness-raising workshops, campaigns and capacity building for diverse constituents, including women, traditional and religious leaders, and law enforcement officials.
  • Strengthening national capacities is key to ensure the sustainability of our efforts. The role of National Human Rights Institutions is critical in ensuring durable solutions, including by monitoring and protecting the human rights of internally displaced people and returnees, ensuring their access to humanitarian assistance and social services.
  • Access to civil documentation is essential to advance durable solutions for those internally displaced. Without documentation, internally displaced people and returnees cannot exercise their rights, including freedom of movement, right to work, access to education, health and social protections.
  • Accountability is key to the sustainability of returns. Every displaced person has a right to acknowledgment of the harm that has been done to them, justice and remedy. In Iraq, human rights staff in UNAMI conducted a consultative workshop this year on the Draft Yazidi Survivors Law with nineteen Yazidi survivors of sexual slavery. The exclusion of men and boys from the scope of the law was identified as a serious gap; many pointed out that men and boys find it difficult to report crimes they have suffered.
  • Data is vital to information, preparedness and response. Many instances of internal displacement are unacknowledged, unrecorded and therefore receive no adequate response from Governments and the international community. This means hundreds of thousands of people entitled to protection and assistance are left to fend for themselves, undermining prospects for a sustainable solution.

This Panel can greatly assist in recognizing the global need for greater attention to the dignity and rights of all those internally displaced. I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you.