The Role of Regional Organizations in Responding to Internal Displacement and Applying the Guiding Principles

Roberta Cohen
Roberta Cohen Former Brookings Expert, Co-Chair Emeritus - Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

September 1, 2001

Over the past decade, regional organizations have been devoting increased attention to the problem of internal displacement. They have engaged in preventive measures, have monitored and reported on situations of displacement, provided humanitarian assistance and have engaged in actual protection activities on the ground. There is good reason for their involvement. Situations of conflict and displacement rarely remain confined within borders. They spill over into neighboring countries and can upset regional stability, thereby often compelling a regional response. Regional activity is also essential because of the influence regional powers can have in encouraging governments in their regions to assume their responsibilities toward their internally displaced populations.

The efforts of regional organizations have been encouraged by the United Nations. Indeed, UN resolutions of the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have called upon regional bodies to expand their cooperation with the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons and strengthen their activities with regard to internal displacement. In particular, these resolutions have called upon regional organizations and the Representative to convene seminars on the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and have expressed appreciation to regional bodies for making use of the Principles.

In response, regional organizations have been strengthening their ties with the Representative and have begun to disseminate and use the Guiding Principles. A brief look at some of their activities may prove instructive to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography as it examines the organization’s role in responding to the 3 to 4 million persons internally displaced in Europe.

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