April 24, 2018

Leave no one behind – IDPs living on the margins of international protection

Written by Fraser Murray, Refugee Policy and Advocacy Adviser, Christian Aid

There are more than 65 million displaced people worldwide, of whom more than 43 million are classified as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Currently, IDPs are overlooked in United Nations (UN) discussions and the focus of the UN Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration is on people who have crossed borders and are on the move. In the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’, Christian Aid wants to highlight the plight of these people and is calling for a fair deal for IDPs that is funded, ambitious, inclusive and rights-based.


In 2016, due in part to the high numbers of refugees moving into Europe via Greece and Italy, the international community pushed for the UN to develop Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration. At the 2016 UN General Assembly, states pledged support to the development of two processes as a means of solving the global crisis.

The refugee situation in Europe has received extensive media and political attention in the past few years. The arrival of refugees and migrants has created a political crisis in Europe, causing a seismic shock to the EU. The political constraints aside, the situation in Europe also led to EU states putting pressure on the UN to make adaptations to existing conventions on refugees and develop legislation aimed at regularising and controlling migration. Unfortunately, the pressure on developing these Global Compacts has primarily come from Europe, North America and Australia, and has skewed the understanding of migrant and refugee flows.

Politicians in the global North and the international press have managed to reframe the understanding of refugees and migrants as a south-to-north phenomenon, yet the reality is very different. There is overwhelming evidence which demonstrates that the majority of global migration occurs within regions and continents, and the northward movement of people – while causing political challenges for northern countries – is very small in comparison. Most refugees are hosted in countries that border on their countries of origin. However, for numerous reasons, many globally displaced people do not cross country borders. As the world focuses on displacement, the talks concentrate on refugees, but neglect people who are internally displaced. The UN, states, international agencies and civil society organisations recognise the plight of IDPs, yet addressing their needs has been overlooked in the current amendments being made to the Global Compacts. In the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’, Christian Aid is starting to broaden its displacement focus on increasing awareness about IDPs.

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