Ann Harrison Avery

Refugee education consultant, Refugee Education Trust, Box 48, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland (email:



Internally displaced people: a global survey


Author: Global IDP Project & Norwegian Refugee Council – second edition Publisher: Earthscan, London, UK; Sterling, Virginia, USA. ( Hb ISBN 1-85283-953- 1 price UK £55 Pb ISBN 1-85283-952-3 price UK £19.95


Some 25 million persons across the world today are counted as internally displaced. Because they have not crossed an international border, they are not protected by the international regulations which concern refugees. They are people whose states are unable or unwilling to see that their needs are recognized and met. This book indicates the scope of the problem and the responses to it in the year 2002. The Global IDP Project data base ( provides updates and additional information.

What is the significance of the problem? In numbers it is relatively large: 25 million is twice the number of refugees — five times as many as in the 1970s. In terms of governance, internal displacement indicates unsolved fundamental problems.

A seven-page chapter on the Global IDP Project's training programme near the beginning of the book, and the fundamental 10 pages of Guiding principles at the end give the reader an idea of the strategies and principles that exist for dealing with the problems which are so starkly documented in the regional profiles. But the real aim of this publication is to convince us of the enormity of the problem, and in this it succeeds all too well. Focusing on 48 countries, the survey looks at four factors which lead to displacement: armed conflict, generalized violence, the systematic violation of human rights, and forced displacement as a military or political objective. In country after country, variations on these same themes are reported. The difficulty of a response from humanitarian agencies to the needs of the displaced is cited again and again.

The website, besides giving updates on particular countries, contains reports on a training module used with government and nongovernmental organizations. There are also guides to these modules, written jointly by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The report entitled "Recipients as resources — a community based approach" should be required reading for anyone developing programmes for (or, more correctly, with) displaced populations.

The Global IDP Project team hopes that its information services will help to improve the now very inadequate and still ad hoc response to internal displacement. In 1992 Dr Francis M. Deng was appointed representative to the UN Secretary-General on internally displaced persons. The Global IDP Project began in 1998 with its first global survey, and established an internet data base in 1999. That year the United Nations adopted the UN guiding principles on internal displacement, drafted at the request of the UN High Commission on Human Rights. These guiding principles, though not legally binding, represent a consensus on how countries and agencies ought to act in relation to these populations. In 2002, the UN created an IDP unit in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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