Internally Displaced People – Glossary of Good

Jaz Cummins

By Jaz Cummins

In Blog, Empower Life, Glossary of Good, Moments

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As part of empower’s Glossary of Good series, Jaz Cummins shares information and useful links about internally displaced people.

Empower have worked with ‘IDPs’ – internally displaced people, through several refugee, humanitarian and human rights organisations such as UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International and more.

Who are internally displaced people?

Internally displaced people (IDPs) have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home.

While they may have fled for similar reasons, IDPs stay within their own country and remain under the protection of its government, even if that government is the reason for their displacement. As a result, these people are among the most vulnerable in the world. 


How many people are internally displaced?

Of the 65.3 million people currently forcibly displaced around the globe, 40.8 million are IDPs, not refugees. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre describes this as ‘a crisis of enormous proportion and yet, the world is largely unaware.

“Internal displacement is the great tragedy of our time.

The internally displaced people are among the most vulnerable of the human family”

Kofi-Annan, Former UN Secretary General

Refugees who cross international borders receive the bulk of the world’s attention and assistance, whereas the majority who flee are still within their home country, making them much harder to reach and protect.

How can internal displacement be helped or solved?

Internal displacement usually stems from the same root as refugees – fleeing conflict, violence, persecution, human rights violation, natural or human-made disasters at home. Displacement can take the form of long-term protracted crises like the five decades of war that have driven millions of Colombians to seek a precarious safety over generations in informal settlements. Or from newer conflict like Yemen, where millions have been forced to flee war in just a few years.

The Governments of the states where IDPs are found that have the primary responsibility for their assistance and protection, and often they are in part at fault for what is happening. Therefore, the causes and solutions are deeply complex and vary hugely by country, crisis, cause and person.

The international community’s role is complementary, but there is much they can and do, do. Both in terms of material assistance to shelter, feed and protect IDPs, and at a political level – negotiating and advocating for the wider solutions needed.

The links below provide further information on this complex topic.

Useful links on internally displaced people:

  • UNHCR – Internally Displaced People 
  • Questions and Answers about IDPs – UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner 

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