IOM DG Swing Calls for Greater Assistance, Protection for the Internally Displaced

Geneva – More than 40 million people are displaced by conflict within the borders of their own country. Disaster displaces another 25 million people on average each year. Facing losses, hardship and deprivation, generations of internally displaced persons are often the most neglected in many of the world’s crises. Children make up more than half of these populations.

“In 1998, internal displacement was recognized as one of the world’s greatest tragedies and 20 years later, it still is,” said Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency, remarking on the 20th Anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. On 17 April 1998, the Commission for Human Rights took note of the Guiding Principles, effectively launching them as a global standard for States and humanitarian actors.

“Today, on the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles, their footprint is clear. They are widely accepted as the standard for protecting and assisting internally displaced people, many states have incorporated them into national legislation, they have inspired regional agreements, and they underscore all major work in this area.

“Twenty years on, the number of internally displaced people has nearly doubled due to ongoing new displacements, a lack of solutions for those being left behind in protracted crises and a chronic shortfall of almost 50 per cent of funding needed to meet basic humanitarian needs. The daily tragedy of internal displacement continues for millions."

Ambassador Swing said as the international community embarks on a year of reflection and action to mark the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles, everyone can and must do more. “Anyone can be vulnerable to disasters, violence and violations of human rights. More than a humanitarian imperative, it makes good economic sense and is socially advantageous to empower states and populations in their own preparedness, in strengthening their resilience, and in helping to resolve internal displacement,” he said.

He said that “in the spirit of ‘leaving no one behind’, the momentum behind the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, greater attention must be focused on addressing the root causes of displacement and reducing risk.”  Ambassador Swing added that when displacement is a life-saving necessity, concerted efforts must minimize its impact and resolve the displacement as soon as possible with safety and dignity and in ways that build back better and prevent it from happening again.

“IOM helps States and the public prevent and resolve internal displacement. Throughout this year, with partners, we will use the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles as an opportunity to do three vital things: raise awareness on the centrality of the Guiding Principles to the assistance and protection of internally displaced people; call on Governments to incorporate the Guiding Principles into their national Legislation; and strengthen partnerships that contribute to effective and accountable programming to help realize the untapped positive potential and agency of internally displaced people in their communities, including empowering them in their own responses and giving a platform to their voices,” said Director General Swing.

In 2016, IOM’s operations reached more than 19 million internally displaced persons and provided over 6 million host community members with support across 31 countries. This makes IOM one of the largest actors on internal displacement issues globally. 

IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) tracks internal displacement flows, as well as the needs of displaced people in multiple countries experiencing crisis around the world. For example, as of March 2018, IOM DTM tracked 575,340 displaced people in South Sudan. You can view latest DTM reports here.

In 2017, IOM launched an enhanced framework for addressing internal displacement in response to changes in and the expansion of IOM’s policies and operations over the years. View IOM’s framework here.

For more information, please contact Olivia Headon at IOM HQ in Geneva, Tel: +41794035365, Tel: