Resolving Internal Displacement: Prospects for Local Integration

Elizabeth Ferris
Elizabeth Ferris
Elizabeth Ferris Former Brookings Expert, Research Professor, Institute for the Study of International Migration - Georgetown University

June 1, 2011

Editor’s Note: This report was edited by Elizabeth Ferris. Ferris was also a contributor to this report, along with Michelle Berg, Patricia Weiss Fagen, Kate Halff, Nina Slug, Nadine Walicki, Rhodri C. Williams and Greta Zeender.

Abridged versions of this report are available in EnglishFrench and Spanish.

Most of the world’s 27.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) live in protracted displacement. Solutions are absent or have failed and IDPs remain disadvantaged and unable to fully enjoy their rights. Governments and the international community, including both humanitarian and development organizations, have tended to favor return over local integration and settlement elsewhere.

Local integration, while generally accepted as one of three settlement options for achieving durable solutions to internal displacement, has received much less attention from almost all actors involved in internal displacement issues than return. Very little is currently known about the actual process of local integration for internally displaced persons choosing to remain in the locations to which they have been displaced.

In this report, the six case studies on protracted displacement and possibilities for local integration offer valuable insights for IDPs, local and national authorities, humanitarian and development actors, NGOs and civil society and academic researchers. The cases of Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Serbia, Sudan and Uganda are all unique with particular political, economic and social contexts. There is no single recipe for resolving displacement in these diverse contexts. Rather flexible approaches are needed to explore the possibility of IDPs finding durable solutions through local integration in these and other cases.

This report examines nine observations in relation to the local integration of IDPs in protracted displacement. These are:

Observation 1: Most IDPs live in situations of protracted displacement, and over time, their needs and vulnerability may increase. Possible solutions to displacement may also change over time.

Observation 2: There is no data on the achievement of durable solutions for IDPs who have chosen to return, integrate locally or settle elsewhere in the country as per the criteria in the 2010 Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons.

Observation 3: The literature on integration of IDPs and refugees is constructive for the study of integration of IDPs at their current residence. However, more research is needed into the determinants of and obstacles to successful local integration of IDPs.

Observation 4: While the evidence seems to suggest that most IDPs hope to return to their communities, local integration is the preferred settlement option of some IDPs in most countries.

Observation 5: Return of IDPs to their communities of origin has been promoted over other settlement options by some governments, though equal emphasis should be put on all settlement options for IDPs. More reflection is needed on the concept of local integration as a transitional measure pending the possibility for return or resettlement elsewhere.

Observation 6: In recent years an increased number of governments have acknowledged local integration as a valid settlement option of IDPs, and in some cases they have actively supported IDPs to settle in their area of displacement.

Observation 7: Local integration presents different challenges in rural and urban areas, though inadequate housing and lack of income-generation opportunities appear to be obstacles to local integration in both.

Observation 8: Some IDPs have no choice but to remain in their area of displacement, which does not constitute a genuine choice or progress towards durable solutions. Others have consciously decided to integrate locally and some factors that have influenced this intention include security, social networks, jobs, services and property ownership at their current residence.

Observation 9: Local integration is mentioned as a settlement option for IDPs in regional and country level documents, though UN documents mention this option inconsistently. Development actors need to be further engaged in the support of local integration and the achievement of sustainable durable solutions for IDPs in protracted displacement.