According to the 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement, released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) reached a record high of 50.8 million people in 2019, an increase of 9.5 million from the previous year. Working alongside IDPs is a core part of Jesuit Refugee Service’s global mission and efforts to develop solutions to address their needs must continue.
The largest group of forcibly displaced persons in the world, IDPs have historically fallen through the cracks, ignored by their own governments and overlooked by donors. Yet, the current global environment raises new challenges. “The social and financial crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic could result in the concerns of IDPs receding further into the background,” says Joe Cassar, SJ, JRS Iraq Country Director.
Protracted displacement due to unresolved crises that hinder return and insufficient services on account of limited or decreased resources are two main challenges affecting IDPs. JRS accompanies, serves, and defends IDPs in 14 countries through the implementation of education services, psycho-social support, peacebuilding, pastoral activities, training in modern agricultural techniques, or mediation to settle land disputes and other conflicts.
Daily obstacles faced by IDPs will be heightened amidst these challenges, including the “55,000 IDPs in over 50 informal settlements in Kabul who fear evacuation and the loss of daily wage jobs and whatever assets they have secured,” says Sandesh Gonsalves SJ, Country Director, JRS Afghanistan.
Now, more than ever, advocating on behalf of IDPs and their needs is of critical importance. JRS is a proud member of the GP20 campaign, a three year effort that provides an opportunity to reflect on the limitations of the current legal framework for IDPs and calls for renewed attention to this vast group of displaced persons.
JRS is also monitoring the progress of a new High-Level Panel (HLP) on Internal Displacement announced in October 2019 by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. The Panel is tasked with finding concrete long-term solutions to internal displacement for Member States and the United Nations to improve their efforts to help all those affected, including both the displaced and their host communities.
As a first step, the HLP is soliciting feedback from civil society regarding key challenges and good practices regarding how to address the global needs of IDPs. JRS submitted recommendations based on our extensive experience working with IDPs, including the need to strengthen international law protecting IDPs and good governance; prioritize services that ensure safety, security, and basic needs for IDPs, whether in urban areas, camp-like, or camp settings; and focus on peace building, social cohesion, and reconciliation to develop long-term solutions.
“National governments must listen to those who have been impacted by internal displacement, in particular women and children, and involve them as much as possible in the planning for long-term solutions,” says Rosalyn Kayah, JRS Myanmar Country Director.
Only by working alongside those impacted by displacement and the organizations serving them, will we be able to make progress in addressing these significant challenges and leverage the growing political will to develop much-needed long-term solutions.