An internally displaced person is someone forced from their home by natural disaster, extreme poverty or political conflict but do not leave the borders of their homeland. This is the crucial difference between internally displaced persons and refugees; refugees cross a border, leaving their homeland and subject to protections afforded by international treaties. There are more than 25 million internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in the world, outnumbering refugees by a ratio of two to one. However the vast majority of relief efforts target refugees rather than IDPs and there are no United Nations agencies or international treaties that specifically target this population-until now.
Africa is home to at least half of the world’s IDP’s. Algeria, Sudan, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) all have at least a million IDP’s each. “[In Africa,] forced displacement … is mostly attributable to the acts or omissions of the state, such as human rights violations, political and socio-economic marginalization, conflicts over natural resources and governance challenges, according to the AU.” In late October, seventeen member nations of the African Union signed the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. Previously, the only international law document specifically targeted to IDP’s was the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacement. As the name suggests, this document only lists suggested principles of behavior to prevent and manage situations of displacement; it is what’s referred to as “soft law” in that it is not binding on State’s behavior. Conventions and treaties, on the other hand, are binding on State’s behavior and can lead to sanctions or adjudication. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST