Handbook on Internal Displacement for National Human Rights Institutions

Over 50 million people were estimated to be internally displaced by the end of 2020 due to conflict, disasters, human rights violations and violence. Given the multiple drivers of displacement, human rights infringements are often experienced before, during and after displacement and can be difficult to detect and resolve. Human rights infringements are often wide-reaching in their impact, affecting internally displaced people (IDPs), host communities and local authorities.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are vital to protecting the human rights of the internally displaced. NHRIs monitor the human rights situation of IDPs before and during displacement, as well as their progress towards durable solutions; report on their human rights violations, including discrimination, and investigate individual complaints and conduct inquiries into serious violations of IDPs’ human rights. Additionally, NHRIs work with legislative bodies to develop national and local laws, policies and regulations; conduct campaigns to raise public awareness of IDPs, and work with IDPs.

This handbook analyses the role and activities of NHRIs in addressing the human rights dimensions of internal displacement. It provides an overview of good practices, experiences and lessons learned, and serves as a practical tool for NHRIs and other stakeholders around the world. It builds on the work by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), and the UN system and its partners that support NHRIs through capacity-building and resources.

The handbook finds that, despite the many challenges facing NHRIs, including threats and risks, NHRIs have a leading role in ensuring that human rights are an intrinsic part of responses to, and prevention of, internal displacement. They are an important bridge between international stakeholders, national authorities, civil society and populations affected by internal displacement. Yet, while NHRIs collaborate with governments and stakeholders, they remain independent. Their ability to act without interference has helped them establish trust with affected populations where there is scepticism about law and authority figures. This trust also allows NHRIs to support IDPs and the surrounding community by collecting and analysing valuable information and data to advise decision makers on how to resolve conflicts, and by developing policies and strategies to protect and find durable solutions for IDPs.

To this end, the UN system, GANHRI and our partners will continue to provide support to NHRIs across the globe as they seek to promote respect for the rights of IDPs in line with international human rights standards and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).