Internally displaced persons, or “IDPs,” are part of the broader civilian population that needs protection and assistance because of conflict and human rights abuses or due to natural disasters. The focus on IDPs in this Handbook is not intended to encourage preferential treatment of IDPs to the exclusion of other populations at risk but, rather, to improve the quality of the response developed for IDPs whose needs have been, until recently, inadequately addressed by the international humanitarian response.
Forced from their homes, IDPs also experience specific forms of deprivation, such as loss of shelter, and often face heightened or particular protection risks. These risks may include: armed attack and abuse while fleeing in search of safety; family separation, including an increase in the number of separated and unaccompanied children; heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly affecting women and children; arbitrary deprivation of land, homes and other property; and displacement into inhospitable environments, where they suffer stigmas, marginalization, discrimination or harassment.
This Handbook is the result of joint efforts by the staff of over 30 international organizations, most of which are members of the Global Protection Cluster who contributed to the provisional version in 2007. This includes United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. The Handbook was then field-tested in the course of 2008 in over fifteen countries, involving the staff of a wide variety of inter-governmental, governmental and non-governmental agencies or bodies. All contributors since 2007 have provided highly valuable experience and insight into the various subjects dealt with in the Handbook and have done so over and above their existing duties. The Global Protection Cluster would like to pay tribute to these contributions that make the value of the final document.
The handbook provides operational guidance and tools to support effective protection responses in situations of internal displacement.
Specifically, the Handbook seeks to:
- ensure staff members are familiar with the core concepts, principles and international legal standards that form the framework for protection work;
- assist staff in operationalizing these concepts, principles and legal standards and in carrying out their protection responsibilities;
- improve understanding of the particular protection risks faced by internally displaced women, men, boys and girls of various backgrounds;
- provide guidance on how to prevent and respond to the protection risks faced by IDPs through a range of different activities;
- enhance staff skills for carrying out protection work, and promote a consistent and well-coordinated protection response in different operations.
Whereas the focus of the Handbook is mainly on the protection of IDPs and other affected populations in situations of internal displacement in complex emergencies, much of the guidance provided is relevant as well during natural disasters when internal displacement and protection risks also often arise.
Intended audience of the Handbook
This Handbook is primarily intended for use by staff, particularly field staff, of international organizations engaged in responding to internal displacement. This includes not only human rights and protection officers but also humanitarian and development actors more broadly.
Protection is a cross-cutting issue that all staff should address and promote. Indeed, the Handbook should be a source of information and guidance for all partners involved in a protection response, including State authorities and civil society.