ICRC highlights the importance of working together to improve the lives of internally displaced people

The plight of #IDPs must be brought to the forefront and remain a priority on the global agenda

Statement given by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), during the United Nations General Assembly, 76th Session - Third Committee, General Debate
Article 08 October 2021 United States of America

The ICRC would like to draw further attention to the importance of working together to improve the lives of internally displaced people (IDPs). Recent recommendations of the High-Level Panel are reminders of the need for action. We must build on this momentum to ensure that the plight of IDPs is brought to the forefront and remains a priority on the global agenda.

Today, the ICRC will focus on three aspects: (1) the intersecting challenges of the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, (2) the importance of preventing displacement in the first place, and (3) the need for interim solutions.

First, we see in our work how individually armed conflict, displacement, and climate risks can strain already fragile or nonexistent services, and infrastructure. When combined, the three create significant challenges to meet the needs of IDPs. In these compounding factors, we need better understanding of how climate shocks exacerbate the vulnerability of individuals in general and those already displaced by conflict in particular. Through careful analysis, programming, and funding we may better know how to concretely respond to people's needs, including how to help people adapt.

At present, climate change adaptation efforts are limited in fragile or conflict-affected countries. Absence of such measures risks further displacement as this will be the only way for people to survive. Support to adapt livelihoods can help limiting displacement caused by drought, poor crop yields, or flooding.

The Covid-19 pandemic has compounded these internal displacement-related challenges. Many IDPs are in precarious circumstances and depend on casual labor or external support, making them disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of lockdown measures. Response to Covid-19 must be inclusive. It must protect IDPs' rights to life and health, ensure non-discriminatory access to adequate prevention and basic healthcare as well as making sure that IDPs are included in national vaccination plans.

Second, to help reduce the scale of internal displacement in situations of armed conflict, States must respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL). For example, respect for IHL can help limit the destruction and degradation of urban services, which is key to avoid further deterioration of people's living conditions and new displacement, and helps to preserve conditions for return of IDPs. Regional legal frameworks such as the Kampala Convention play a key role in the prevention of IHL violations and national implementation of this convention should be stepped up.

Third and finally, on the issue of interim solutions. While we support focus on durable solutions, we should not ignore intermediate steps that can be taken to help people normalize their situation or regain autonomy, particularly when durable solutions are out of reach.

The search for a sustainable fix often results in too myopic a focus on reversing displacement itself, rather than on respecting and restoring rights and addressing losses, in accordance with relevant obligations.

In this area, the ICRC offers four recommendations to avoid holding people in perpetual limbo and instead develop effective interim solutions:

Approach emergency support and resilience-building simultaneously from the beginning of displacement in order to better define short- and long-term interventions.

Work together with displaced people (especially women and children, who often make up the majority of displaced populations) and host communities to identify their needs – at the individual and community level. For individuals, support can help them regain financial autonomy and re-enter social protection programs. Individual support often also needs to be complemented with responses that address the needs of displaced persons and their hosts, notably through large-scale food distributions or ensuring access to essential services.

Aim policies at alleviating pressure on host communities, which can help lessen tensions between displaced people and their hosts.
Cooperate with a broad range of actors, from humanitarian organizations to development actors, the private sector, local and national authorities, and civil society, all of whom can contribute to the development of interim solutions.