International Committee of the Red Cross

Refugees, returnees and displaced persons: ICRC statement to the United Nations, 2017

Statement 02 November 2017

General Debate on the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees, and displaced persons and humanitarian questions. United Nations General Assembly, 72nd Session, Third Committee, Agenda item 64. Statement by the ICRC.

In 1998, we welcomed the publication of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Nearly two decades later, there has been noteworthy progress. The Guiding Principles have gained considerable authority and many States have incorporated them into domestic laws and policies. The Kampala Convention, the world’s first legally binding regional instrument on the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons, came into force in 2012. A study carried out last year by the ICRC shows that several States have taken – or are taking – important steps to domesticate and operationalize the Convention. And the Conference of States Parties, tasked with strengthening the implementation of the Convention, recently held its first meeting.

And yet, year after year, millions of people continue to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, the majority of them within their own countries. Much more needs to be done to prevent displacement. And when people are displaced, more needs to be done to support them and their hosts. Displaced people need protection, assistance and durable solutions and these must be adapted to people’s specific needs. This must be a collective priority. It can only be achieved through joint efforts by national and local authorities, and humanitarian and development actors, as well as displaced people and host communities themselves.

In a rapidly urbanizing world, we must also learn to better respond to displacement in cities. Internally displaced people must be at the centre of this discussion. We welcome the focus placed by Special Rapporteur Jimenez-Damary on enhancing their participation in decisions affecting them.

The forthcoming 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles is an opportunity to put internally displaced persons back in the spotlight. States should mark this anniversary by taking swift action to prevent displacement and protect displaced persons, notably by complying with international human rights law and, in situations of armed conflict, with international humanitarian law. They should draw on good practice to implement concrete measures to address the needs of internally displaced persons and uphold their human rights.