Movement policy on internal displacement
30-09-2009 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 875
Document prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross in consultation with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Nairobi, Kenya, 23–25 November 2009
For decades, severe and sudden crises have caused massive displacements of population groups within national boundaries. These have required an urgent humanitarian response. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) has developed a combination of humanitarian responses and every year comes to the aid of several million displaced people with varying needs and vulnerabilities, in acute emergencies and in protracted situations. The Movement alone cannot meet all the needs caused by displacement but it must make the best use of its combined means and capacities. It must concentrate on needs after giving due consideration to the specific situation involved, and avoid as far as possible inhibiting competition, either between different components of the Movement or between the Movement and other organizations.
When large groups of people are displaced within a country, the public authorities – who have the primary duty of care – can find their resources overstretched and weakened. The components of the Movement have the mission to provide essential humanitarian aid, either alone or in partnership.
The Movement sees displacement as a dynamic and often recurrent process with several phases. Displacement has serious consequences for many different groups. It is covered by the legal framework (national law, international humanitarian law where applicable, and international human rights law) protecting the displaced themselves, those left behind and the host communities who share their resourc es with the displaced group.
The Movement’s primary goal is to protect people against arbitrary displacement and to reduce the risk of displacement caused by natural and manmade hazards. If people are nevertheless displaced, the Movement takes action particularly during acute crises when essential needs are no longer met, regardless of the duration, for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of the individuals. When basic needs are covered by existing services and infrastructure but insufficiently so, such as in chronic crises, the aim is to facilitate progress towards a durable response to the victims’ plight.
In its approach to internal displacement, the Movement has the advantage of having deep roots in the community and a privileged access to the authorities. It takes impartial, humanitarian action to directly meet the urgent needs of people at risk, while supporting authorities in an auxiliary capacity and, if necessary, reminding them of their obligation to care for the affected population.
The policy guidelines on internal displacement build on and complement Movement resolutions relating in particular to action to help refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs). The policy acknowledges that forced displacement may be linked to migratory phenomena and that a coordinated approach is important in order to allow for possible connections between the challenges of displacement and migration. The International Federation’s 2009 policy on migration, together with the (draft) policy on displacement, will serve to harmonize and strengthen the work of the Movement in addressing the needs and the vulnerabilities of both migrants and displaced persons.
The policy guidelines set out below recall the Movement’s commitment to individuals and communities affected by internal displacement as well as the specific nature and strength of the Movement’s work. They reaffirm the value of a Movement-clear coordinated response to displacement crises. The guidelines provide clarity, focus and guidance for the Movement’s approach to displacement. They also cover coordination with other entities dealing with displacement. These guidelines aim to create greater consistency in the Movement’s response to internal displacement, to reaffirm its role and to maximize the positive impact it can have on those at risk.