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The Internally Displaced Persons

 
Definition of IDPs

DEFINITION AND CATEGORIES

IDP (Internally Dispalced Persons) working definition is recent, considering that the issue of Internally Dispalced Persons was linked before to that of Refugees.

Definition of the Analytical Report of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons of 14 February 1992 :

"Persons who have been forced to flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers, as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, systematic violations of human rights or natural or made-man disasters; and who are within

the territory of their own country" By defining an internally displaced person as one who is forced from his home, the 1992 definition needlessly complicated the search for acceptable--not ideal--solutions. The IDP definition, unlike the refugee definition, did not mention a government's willingness or ability to protect displaced persons. By making location the essence of the IDP definition, and not the right to be protected, it did not offer the restoration of one's rights in another location as a durable solution for internally displaced people.

  Living in displacement

The new Guiding Principles include a definition that addresses many of these flaws. It defines internally displaced persons as:

"Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border".The 1998 definition, although not formally endorsed at this writing, vastly improves the 1992 definition, particularly because it drops problematic language such as "suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers," and adds language, such as "places of habitual residence," so that the focus is broader than the home per se. Its more nuanced and realistic description of the causes of displacement includes as IDPs not only persons directly forced to flee but also persons obliged to leave to avoid generalized violence and human rights abuses.

The definition retains persons displaced by natural or human made disasters. In part, this is because the definition is descriptive of the term "internally displaced person" itself. Unlike the term "refugee", which denotes a legal status delineating a particular subset of externally displaced persons, persons forced to leave their homes because of earthquakes or dam projects are, indeed, descriptively "internally displaced persons" whether or not their reasons for flight are similar to those of refugees. Unless the international community were to coin a different term--ten years ago, Lance Clark writing in the 1988 World Refugee Survey suggested the term "internal refugees"--the definition of "internally displaced person" must encompass people displaced within their own country for reasons that have nothing to do with armed conflict or human rights violations.

So the task shifts from defining the internally displaced to establishing criteria to determine who among them are of particular concern to the international community. Once such criteria exist, the international community then needs to determine the acceptable solutions to their plight. In short, we need reference points indicating when internally displaced persons start, and when they stop, being of particular concern to the international community.


Informations from the US Committee for Refugees (USCR), cf www.refugees.org