Addressing Internal Displacement in Peace Processes, Peace Agreements and Peace-Building

September 30, 2007

WASHINGTON , D.C. – The displacement of people within their countries has become a defining characteristic of conflicts worldwide, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are an estimated 25 million people displaced internally by conflict worldwide, about three times the number of refugees. Resolving internal displacement is inextricably linked to achieving peace, concludes a report released today by the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement.

“It is not just the scale of internal displacement that makes it an integral component in peace efforts. Helping displaced populations to return and reintegrate can simultaneously address the root causes of a conflict and help prevent further displacement,” says Khalid Koser, a Fellow at The Brookings Institution and Deputy Director of the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement. “The internally displaced also often have needs that are different both from refugees and other war-affected civilian populations, and thus they require special attention in peace processes.”

Drawing on examples from around the world, the report considers the most effective strategies for addressing internal displacement in peace processes, peace agreements and peace-building. It is based on detailed case studies in Colombia, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

There are significant obstacles to the direct participation of the displaced in formal ‘track-one’ peace processes, and the report defines alternative and complementary strategies including supporting civil society-based ‘track-two’ and ‘track-three’ peace processes; advocacy by international mediators; and emphasizing the legal rights of the displaced. The report goes on to review ten recent peace agreements and develop best practice guidelines for including displacement in the text of agreements. Specific areas that need to be addressed in peace agreements are: distinguishing the categories of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees; guaranteeing cooperation by all parties for durable solutions; enumerating the rights of displaced persons; and defining an implementation process. All too often commitments made in peace agreements are not fulfilled, and the implementation of these commitments requires systematic monitoring in the peace-building phase. In particular the report calls on the new UN Peacebuilding Commission to mainstream displacement in its activities.

Recommendations in the report are directed to national authorities, UN agencies, NGOs, international mediators and peace agreement drafters, and include:

  • Directly include where possible and appropriate legitimate representatives of displaced populations in formal peace negotiations
  • Support “track-two” processes and guarantee no reprisals against any individuals or organizations that participate in these processes
  • Identify specific obstacles to the political mobilization of the displaced and develop strategies to overcome them
  • Establish and support civil society coalitions for peace
  • Encourage local-level conflict resolution mechanism that include displaced populations
  • Provide complete and accurate information to displaced populations concerning negotiations over their concerns
  • Ensure that peace agreements fully incorporate displacement issues
  • Establish a national commission to oversee the implementation of commitments on the rights of the displaced
  • Prioritize finding durable solutions for the displaced in peace-building efforts

Download full report

En español (resumen)