Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Law and Migration

Research Handbook on International Law and Migration

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Vincent Chetail and Céline Bauloz

Migration is a complex and multifaceted issue, and the current legal framework suffers from considerable ambiguity and lack of cohesive focus. This Handbook offers a comprehensive take on the intersection of law and migration studies and provides strategies for better understanding the potential of international legal norms in regulating migration. Authoritative analyses by the most renowned and knowledgeable experts in the field focus on important migration issues and challenge the current normative framework with new ways of thinking about the topic.

Chapter 23: Protection of internally displaced persons: National and international responsibilities

Roberta Cohen

Subjects: development studies, migration, law - academic, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, social policy and sociology, migration, urban and regional studies, migration


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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