UNHCR IDP Policy Development
UNHCR has long protected and assisted internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, as IDPs were never a formal part of UNHCR's mandate - or the mandate of any other UN agency - many situations of internal displacement did not receive the focused attention of the international community. During the 1990s, a consensus emerged within the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) that a collaborative approach was the most appropriate response to the plight of the internally displaced.
In late 2004, the collaborative approach was assessed as part of a broader review of international humanitarian efforts commissioned by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. This resulted in a set of initiatives that aimed for a more effective and accountable humanitarian response by improving coordination, funding and leadership.
Consequently, in December 2005, the IASC agreed to establish the "cluster leadership approach," which ultimately organized ten critical areas of the humanitarian response into "clusters" comprised of a broad range of actors (including NGOs and non-UN inter-governmental organizations), each led by a designated "cluster lead." Within this system, UNHCR assumed the global lead for the Protection Cluster, and cochairs the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) and Emergency Shelter Clusters for situations of conflict-generated internal displacement. In the case of natural disasters at the country level, UNHCR, OHCHR and UNICEF jointly decide upon which agency should lead the Protection Cluster.
In early 2007, UNHCR produced two papers for Informal Consultative Meetings with its Executive Committee members: "Policy Framework and Implementation Strategy: UNHCR's Role in Support of an Enhanced Humanitarian Response to Situations of Internal Displacement" and "The Protection of Internally Displaced Persons and the Role of UNHCR." These will continue to evolve through lessons derived from operational experience in many IDP programmes around the world, as well as through additional feedback from States. These papers have now been shared with UNHCR staff, government interlocutors and UNHCR partners engaged in protecting and assisting IDPs. Concurrent with the issuance of these two papers, the High Commissioner tasked the Regional Bureaux and Divisions to translate the objectives of both papers into measurable workplans showing what UNHCR has been doing, where, and what it plans to do in the years ahead.