Breaking the Impasse:
OCHA Policy and Studies Series
Breaking the Impasse : Reducing Protracted Internal Displacement as a collective outcome
Breaking the Impasse: Reducing Protracted Internal Displacement as a Collective Outcome, also commissioned by OCHA, and authored by Walter Kälin and Hannah Entwisle Chapuisat, highlights that IDPs in protracted situations should not have to wait until a conflict is fully resolved or all impacts of a disaster have ceased before they can begin rebuilding their lives. Building on the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Humanitarian Summit’s outcomes, the study stresses that addressing protracted internal displacement is primarily a development and political challenge, which may also require continued responses to persistent humanitarian needs in displacement-affected communities. The study recommends that stakeholders focus on clear and measurable collective outcomes and the reduction of vulnerabilities of IDPs and host communities over time.

"Around the world, we are witnessing unprecedented numbers of people forced to flee their homes. Images of women, men and children displaced by conflict, violence and disasters have arrested our attention and demand action. While the international spotlight has increasingly focused on refugees and vulnerable migrants, the vast majority of displaced people find themselves within their countries, leaving them all too often invisible to the rest of the world.

Today, there are more than 40 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to conflict and violence living in over 50 countries. Millions more are displaced every year in the context of disasters and climate change. Lacking a home to return to and often fearful for their family’s immediate safety, IDPs live with constant uncertainty about their well-being and future. Many seek shelter in extremely poor urban environments, where they rely on host families and communities for support.

As IDPs remain displaced for months or years on end, host communities can become overwhelmed by the remendous economic and social strain of supporting displaced people. For many, becoming displaced is a life-long sentence that profoundly affects IDPs, host communities, municipalities and countries as a whole.

With nowhere else to turn, some IDPs grow dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Humanitarian organizations work tirelessly to meet the immediate protection, health and other emergency needs of IDPs. But this enormous challenge cannot be solved by humanitarian action alone. This OCHA-commissioned study presents evidence that protracted internal displacement is primarily a development and political challenge with humanitarian elements. Displacement-affected countries will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals—including critical goals on poverty, education and gender equality— without addressing protracted internal displacement. According to the authors, a new approach is needed to address both the short- and long-term needs of IDPs and host communities. Governments, development and humanitarian actors and donors must work together to achieve contextspecific, clear and measurable collective outcomes that reduce vulnerabilities and support solutions to protracted internal displacement. The proposed approach echoes many of the key elements put forward in the New Way of Working, which calls for the pursuit of collective outcomes that reduce needs, risk and vulnerability.

The Agenda for Humanity, prepared in advance of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, challenged Member States, with the support of the international community, to reduce internal displacement by fifty percent by 2030 to ensure that millions of people are not left behind. We now have an opportunity to realize this goal. Each of us has a role to play: Governments have the primary responsibility for protecting and addressing the needs of IDPs and creating conditions necessary to achieve durable  solutions; international humanitarian and development organizations must work collaboratively to support Governments in addressing short- and long-term needs and reducing vulnerabilities; civil society and the private sector must become key allies in achieving collective outcomes; and IDPs and host communities must be integral partners throughout the process to prevent and reduce protracted displacement.

Already, in different contexts, we see promising examples of how an approach based on collective outcomes can stimulate meaningful improvements for people living in protracted displacement. Colombia, a middle-income country, has set the ambitious goal of lifting 500,000 IDPs out of vulnerability by 2018 and discussions on how international development and humanitarian partners can best support this objective are already on-going. In Somalia, while efforts to address most pressing humanitarian challenges continue, the first National Development Plan systematically integrates the needs of the displaced in its vision for the country’s future, highlighting the link between protracted displacement, the reduction of vulnerabilities and long-term prosperity. We must build on these examples to transform our approach to protracted internal displacement and better support Government concerned to achieve the SDGs.

I am grateful to Dr. Walter Kälin and Ms. Hannah Entwisle Chapuisat for authoring this much-needed study. I also appreciate the dedication shown by members of the report’s Advisory Group to share their insights and help carry the recommendations forward. The effort to provide hope to millions of people living in protracted internal displacement will require continued attention and investment at senior levels over a long period of time. As Emergency Relief Coordinator, I am deeply committed to help lead this effort. I call on each of you to join me in taking strong and collective action for IDPs. Together, our work can ensure that millions of women, men and children around the world can lead rich and dignified lives."

Stephen o'Brien, Under-secretary General for Humaniatrian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator