Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Vincent Chetail and Céline Bauloz
Chapter 23: Protection of internally displaced persons: National and international responsibilities
In the 1990s, internally displaced persons (IDPs) - those forcibly uprooted within their own countries by conflict, human rights violations and natural disasters - emerged as one of the more challenging humanitarian, human rights and security issues facing the international community. Unlike refugees, IDPs did not have a well-established international system to protect and assist them or help with their recovery and reintegration. They were considered the exclusive responsibility of their governments since they resided within their own countries. But with the end of the Cold War, and as their numbers grew alarmingly, IDPs began to be seen also as an international responsibility when their governments lacked the capacity or willingness to provide for their security and well-being, or where there was a disintegration of the State. New and evolving concepts of sovereignty made possible the development of international legal and institutional frameworks for protecting and assisting persons displaced inside their own countries. The idea that events taking place within a country are a legitimate concern of the international community began to take hold. As United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar observed in 1991: 'We are clearly witnessing what is probably an irresistible shift in public attitudes towards the belief that the defence of the oppressed in the name of morality should prevail over frontiers and legal documents.'
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