Improving the United Nations Response to Crises of Internal Displacement
Author: C. Phuong
Source: International Journal of Refugee Law, Volume 13, Number 4, October 2001 , pp. 491-517(27)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Abstract:This article examines the controversial proposal that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should be given overall responsibility for internally displaced persons (IDPs). It first analyses how UNHCR became involved in activities relating to IDPs. Over the years, the agency has developed a set of criteria to govern its engagement, which demonstrate that it will consider becoming involved only when it has an interest in doing so. The proposals to improve the UN response to the problem of internal displacement have so far mainly focused on formally extending UNHCR's mandate to include the internally displaced. The author examines the debate in more detail and takes the position that UNHCR should not attempt to assist and protect all internally displaced persons, and that more emphasis should be put on improving inter-agency co-operation instead. Over the last ten years, most UN agencies as well as the ICRC and IOM have started to consider the issue of internal displacement, and it would seem counterproductive to ignore their involvement and focus exclusively on UNHCR. Problems arise from the fact that none of the agencies has a clear policy on the issue. UN actors, ICRC and IOM must reconceptualise the IDP question in human rights terms and this in turn must influence the IDP policy process. The author also evaluates current inter-agency coordination mechanisms which have been put in place to ensure that internally displaced populations receive appropriate attention in each crisis.
Document Type: Original article
Publication date: 2001-10-01
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