Governance

Antonio Guterres unveils action agenda on Internal Displacement

The Action Agenda sets out 31 commitments by the UN system to better resolve, prevent and address internal displacement crises

 
By Rajat Ghai
Published: Friday 24 June 2022
Migrants return to Dehradun during the first wave of COVID-19 in India. Photo: iStock
Migrants return to Dehradun during the first wave of COVID-19 in India. Photo: iStock Migrants return to Dehradun during the first wave of COVID-19 in India. Photo: iStock

The plight of internally displaced persons (IDP) is more than a humanitarian issue. It requires an integrated approach combining development, peacebuilding, human rights, climate action and disaster risk reduction efforts, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said June 24, 2022, as he released the Action Agenda on Internal Displacement.

The Action Agenda sets out 31 commitments by the UN system to better resolve, prevent and address internal displacement crises. It also includes calls to member states, international financial institutions, the private sector and other actors.


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Guterres said the world was at a breaking point due to longer-lasting conflicts and increasingly frequent climate-related disasters. This had led to the number of IDPs doubling over the last 10 years, with women, children and marginalised groups often facing the greatest impacts.

Some 216 million people could be forced to move internally by 2050 in just six regions due to climate change if immediate action is not taken, according to the World Bank.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began February 24, has driven 13 million people out of their homes and communities, nearly two-thirds of whom remain in Ukraine.   

“All of us have a duty to help find lasting solutions to the plight of internally displaced persons,” Guterres said. 

The Agenda

The Action Agenda on Internal Displacement has three overarching goals:

  • To help internally displaced persons find durable solutions  
  • To better prevent future displacement crises
  • To ensure stronger protection and assistance for those currently facing displacement. 

“These three goals are interlinked. No solution is sustainable if another crisis is looming. No assistance will be sufficient if underlying drivers remain unresolved. And prevention cannot succeed if past crises have not been addressed,” Guterres noted.

Photo: @antonioguterres / Twitter

The first goal can only be achieved if the rights and agency of IDPs of all ages, genders and diversities are recognised, according to the UN. This would mean respecting IDPs’ right to choose what was best for them and allowing them to participate in decisions that would affect them.

Also, host communities and those in areas of return or future settlement needed to be engaged.

Guterres added that the primary responsibility of facilitating sustainable solutions to suitable displacement rested with states. Among other things, he called for greater action from and support to local and city authorities, as IDPs are increasingly settling and residing in urban areas worldwide.

The UN secretary-general announced that he had appointed a time-bound Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement.

“The Special Adviser will work in concert with a Steering Group on Solutions to Internal Displacement, which will engage at the global and country levels to drive stepped-up action and one-UN approaches to solutions,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general also outlined commitments to prevent future crises. These would include working with governments, regional organisations, local communities and civil society to address the root causes of displacement and to promote peacebuilding, social cohesion and mediation that considers displacement risks.

“When there are early signs of conflict, renewed violence or threats to civilians, mobilise rapid action to support de-escalation, political negotiation and conflict resolution, and systematically address internal displacement as part of these efforts,” one of the commitments read.

Other commitments in meeting this goal centred on climate change-related displacement. For instance, the UN will address displacement proactively and systematically as part of the UN’s work on climate change, including by supporting the work on the Task Force on Displacement under the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.

India saw 4.9 million internal displacements last year, according to a June 16 UN report based on data provided by the Switzerland-based non-profit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 

The country ranked third in terms of most internal displacements due to disasters after China (6 million) and the Philippines (5.7 million), according to the report.

Umi Daniel, director, migration and education, Aide et Action International, told Down To Earth that Guterres’ unveiling the Agenda was a signal for India to clean up its act on the subject too.

He cited three instances of IDPs in India:

  • Adivasis, who bore the brunt of major developmental projects such as big dams
  • Coastline dwellers such as those in Satabhaya in Odisha, where seven villages were being swallowed by the sea
  • Thousands of tribals in Chhattisgarh who had been forced to migrate to Khammam in Telangana due to the conflict between Maoists and the Salwa Judum

“India has a policy in place for dam-displaced people. But it does not have one for those displaced by political conflict or environmental reasons. It is time that India makes a policy on internal displacement in line with the UN Action Agenda released today,” Daniel said.

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