UN panel to rally global political will to tackle internal displacement crisis

UNOCHA/Giles Clarke Ambuchu John is 58 years old and completely blind, seen here standing in his new home with his two eldest children, having been displaced by the fighting in Buea District, Cameroon.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Forty-one million people around the world are internally displaced – and hundreds of thousands more have been forced from their homes since the beginning of the year – an “unacceptable” situation for which solutions can be found, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told a delegation established to address this global challenge.

Opening the inaugural session of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement in Geneva on Tuesday, Mr. Guterres spoke of the acute and relentless crisis of people forced from their homes by conflict and human rights violations alone.

Many have been living in limbo stranded for years after their initial displacement without secure housing, jobs, education or other needs and opportunities.

He appealed to the Panel and its members from government, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and countries especially affected by displacement to draw attention to the issue.

The UN chief urged its members to bring fresh ideas to prevent forced displacement, better protect and assist displaced people and identify swifter solutions to displacement.

“It is unacceptable that millions of people are so brutally dislocated from their home and then linger without solutions for years”, Mr. Guterres said. “Being displaced should not be an interminable problem”.

Timely work

“Our work is timely”, said Panel co-chair Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s former foreign policy chief. “Since the beginning of the year, close to a million people have been displaced as Idlib in Syria is under attack”.

Noting reports that the majority of the displaced are women and children, now living in desperate conditions, she said: “This is a stark reminder that throughout our work, it is essential to pay specific attention to gender considerations, and to the way displacement affects different groups based on age, gender and other aspects”.

And while displacement continues in the Horn of Africa, it is also prevalent in countries such as Afghanistan, Cameroon, the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Yemen.

The co-chair maintained the importance of managing the process carefully,” to ensure transparency and continued support, while allowing us to think and act independently”.

Noting the “challenging task ahead”, she pointed out that “as Panelists, we all have different backgrounds and experiences which can help us apprehend the issue of internal displacement through new perspectives and approaches.”

“My commitment to you fellow Panel members is to strive to provide leadership…while ensuring that we all have a strong voice and the space to propose new ideas to deal with internal displacement”, concluded Ms. Mogherini.

Tight timeframe

Acknowledging the tight timeframe for tackling such an enormous and complex subject, co-chair Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank and current head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, stressed that the Panel will have to undertake the broadest consultations possible.

“It is ultimately about political commitment especially by national Governments to tackle this problem in all its multifaceted dimensions supported by solid regional and international partnership, solidarity and responsibility sharing”, he said.

“It is also crucial to hear directly from all those who have been impacted by internal displacement, including the internally displaced themselves, so that we are able to grasp properly the priority issues on which to focus our attention”.

Recognizing that efforts have been made over time to address the humanitarian aspects of internal displacement, the co-chair underscored the need for more comprehensive efforts.

“We need to examine the underlying social and economic causes of displacement including poverty, inequality, marginalization and exclusion, environmental fragilities, governance challenges and the impact of displacement on societies and countries to be able to propose the correct solutions”, he stressed.

The panel

The Panel, tasked with raising global awareness and finding concrete long-term solutions to the dire issue, is expected to meet four times over the next 12 months and consult with countries and relevant organizations before submitting its recommendations to the Secretary-General by February 2021.

It was created last October and is constituted by representatives from government, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and countries particularly affected by displacement to improve UN efforts and those of its Member States to help all those affected, including the displaced and their host communities.

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