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Internal displacement continues to be one of the most challenging humanitarian problems of our time. There are an estimated 26 million people internally displaced by conflict who are in need of international attention, more than double the number of refugees. Despite this disparity, which has grown over the past decade, the global response has been weak, characterized by incomplete access to the displaced, lack of clarity as to mandates and responsibilities, and funding that falls well short of what is required. In consequence, hundreds of thousands of people suffer unnecessarily. Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and other areas of major strategic interest to the United States are currently grappling with large-scale internal displacement crises, the resolution of which is critical to bringing durable peace to these countries.
As a leading donor and voice in the humanitarian field, it is essential that the United States address this problem. While USAID’s policy on internal displacement in 2004 was welcome and the U.S. often provides quick, direct funding in specific emergencies, the U.S. government must be a much stronger advocate for finding solutions for internally displaced people (IDPs). It has been at best ambivalent in its support of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It is essential that the United States government send clear messages to UNHCR about its role in responding to internal displacement and engage more consistently with host governments on the issue. It is equally critical that the U.S. government clarify funding, advocacy and leadership responsibilities for IDPs between USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and effectively involve other government offices. Finally, with a new administration at the helm, there is an opportunity for stronger overall leadership
on the humanitarian reform efforts of the United Nations.
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, urge a new more dynamic approach to this worldwide problem by the in-coming administration. We propose a set of overarching principles to guide specific policy changes, followed by policy recommendations.
Comprehensive Approach: The U.S. needs to approach displacement holistically in emergencies, seeing refugees and internally displaced people as part of the same dynamic of forced displacement, while providing for different responses, given the different legal frameworks, vulnerabilities and needs.
Recognition of the Guiding Principles: The U.S. should recognize and promote the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which are rooted in international human rights and international humanitarian law and represent the best international consensus on the rights of the internally displaced.
Proportionality: In keeping with Good Humanitarian Donorship principles, the U.S. should ensure that adequate funding is available to respond to the needs of the internally displaced, with vulnerability and scale of need as the primary criteria for fund allocation. The U.S. should also seek to develop flexible funding to ensure that the full spectrum of needs is met from the time of initial displacement to the time of reintegration into home or new communities, and that host family and community needs are given attention as well.
Clarity: The U.S. should clarify responsibilities for responding to internal displacement within the government and find an institutional home for coordinating the response.
To improve the U.S. response to internal displacement, the in-coming administration should:
American Refugee Committee Church World Service, Immigration and Refugee Program
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Human Rights Watch
International Catholic Migration Commission
International Medical Corps
International Rescue Committee
Jesuit Refugee Service
LIFE for Relief and Development
Lutheran World Relief
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
The Advocacy Project
Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children