Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have had to leave behind everything they own due to military conflicts or natural disasters, and often face humanitarian emergencies. They lack food, sanitation facilities, medical care and adequate accommodation, and are mostly located in areas to which humanitarian actors have limited access.

Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border and therefore do not have special legal status or specific protection. The responsibility for ensuring that the human rights of IDPs are protected and respected falls primarily to the states concerned. Not all governments of states in which people have been internally displaced are willing or able to protect IDPs and to afford them their rights.

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998) lay down non-legally binding standards for dealing with IDPs. The only legally binding instrument is the Kampala Convention adopted by the African Union in 2009. This recognises the rights of IDPs and sets out guarantees for them throughout the African continent.

Switzerland is helping to ensure that internal displacement is included on the political agenda of international organisations and supports projects providing assistance for IDPs in certain countries. Governments of states that have IDPs on their territory are encouraged to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in their national policy and given funding and personnel where required. Switzerland has also supported the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, which published a report in autumn 2021, and is committed to the appropriate implementation of its recommendations.

Last update 25.07.2023


Peace and Human Rights Division

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