Election-Related Rights and Political Participation of Internally Displaced Persons: Protection During and After Displacement in Georgia

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon Former Brookings Expert

November 30, 2009


Guaranteeing the right to vote and to participate in public and political affairs for all citizens is an important responsibility. Given the precarious position that IDPs can find themselves in and considering the extent to which they may need to rely on national authorities for assistance, IDPs have a legitimate and a heightened interest in influencing the decisions that affect their lives by participating in elections.   

Internally displaced persons often exist on the margins of society and are subject to a number of vulnerabilities because of their displacement. For instance, IDPs face an immediate need for protection and assistance in finding adequate shelter, food, and health care. Over time, they can suffer discrimination in accessing public services and finding employment on account of being an IDP from another region or town. IDPs also face an especially high risk of losing ownership of their housing, property, and land, something which can lead to loss of livelihoods and economic security as well as physical security. Women and children, who often make up the majority of IDP populations, face an acute risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.  

In addition to influencing public policy, elections can also be about reconciliation and addressing divisions and inequities that exist within society. For these reasons and others, IDPs should be afforded an opportunity to fully participate in elections as voters and as candidates.   

As noted in a press release of the Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons following an official mission to Georgia in December 2005, 

“[IDP] participation in public life, including elections, needs promotion and support. Supporting internally displaced persons in their pursuit of a normal life does not exclude, but actually reinforces, the option of eventual return. … Well integrated people are more likely to be productive and contribute to society, which in turn gives them the strength to return once the time is right.”[1]

[1] United Nations Press Release – U.N. Expert Voices Concern for Internally Displaced Persons in Georgia, 27 December 2005, available at