It is a daunting task to follow in the footsteps of Roberta Cohen as the new co-director of the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement. I remember working with Roberta in the late 1980s – long before the term ‘IDP’ became commonplace in the humanitarian community. Many NGOs were concerned about the lack of protection of uprooted people who had not crossed a national border but were uncertain about how to take the issue forward. Roberta Cohen’s pioneering work provided clear directions and guidance to NGO advocates. The subsequent appointment of Francis Deng as the Representative of the UN Secretary- General (RSG), the development of the Guiding Principles and the policy research carried out by the Project proved invaluable in mobilising support for work to protect IDPs.
I am looking forward to building on the solid policy research work Roberta has inspired. This Project has been a unique collaborative undertaking between the UN’s RSG and a policy research institution. The Project has directly supported the mandate of the RSG, making it possible for him to be more effective in his advocacy to promote the human rights of IDPs. At the same time, the Project complements the work of the RSG – and others working with IDPs – by carrying out cutting-edge research on issues of internal displacement.
Four strategic directions will guide the future work of the Project:
- Strengthening the normative framework
- Enhancing the will to protect
- Responding to new challenges
- Strengthening the capacity to protect
"You have to play the long game. It’s fine to add money, but when the commitment is volatile and your funding goes up and down constantly, you can end up creating more harm than good."
"We have been in Central America for a long time. It’s not just money that has made us effective in the region — there is a lot of hard-earned experience, trial and error, and institution building that is slowly reaping results. The worst thing that could happen now is to go back to zero."