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Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have had to abandon everything they own because of military conflicts or natural disasters and often face humanitarian emergencies. They lack food, sanitation facilities, medical care and adequate accommodation.  They are often located in areas to which humanitarian actors have limited access.

Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border and therefore enjoy neither special legal status nor specific protections. The responsibility for ensuring that the human rights of IDPs are protected and respected falls primarily to the states concerned. Not all governments of states in which people have been internally displaced are willing or able to protect IDPs and to afford them their rights.

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998) provide a normative framework for dealing with IDPs, but are not legally binding. The only legally binding instrument is the Kampala Convention adopted by the African Union in 2009. This recognises the rights of IDPs and set outs guarantees for them throughout the African continent. 

Switzerland is helping to ensure that internal displacement is included on the political agenda of international organisations and supports projects providing assistance for IDPs in certain countries. Governments of states that have IDPs on their territory are encouraged, and, if necessary provided with financial and personnel support, to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in their national policy. Switzerland also supports the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, which is set to publish a report with recommendations in autumn 2021.

Last update 16.03.2022


Peace and Human Rights Division

Bundesgasse 32
3003 Bern


+41 (0)58 462 30 50


+41 (0)58 463 89 22