A roundtable of internationally recognized experts in the humanitarian and human rights fields was convened to discuss future directions for the mandate of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons. Dr. Francis M. Deng opened the meeting by noting that he has served as the Representative since 1992, when the U.N. Secretary-General, at the request of the Commission on Human Rights, asked him to study “ways and means for improved protection for and assistance to internally displaced persons.”
Since then, the Representative has engaged in dialogue with governments and heads of human rights, humanitarian and development agencies to raise awareness to the global problem of internal displacement. He has visited 13 countries with serious problems of internal displacement, published reports on these situations, and made recommendations for improving the conditions of the displaced. In collaboration with international legal experts, he has developed a normative framework for the internally displaced in the form of Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which he presented to the Commission on Human Rights in April. Together with Roberta Cohen and other experts, the Representative has studied existing institutional arrangements and made recommendations on ways in which inter-agency collaboration might be improved to more effectively address the needs of the internally displaced. A number of these recommendations have been adopted at the international and regional levels. In large part, the position of the Representative has evolved into one of catalyst within the international system, focusing attention on the internally displaced and stimulating improvements.
Now that the issue of internal displacement is internationally recognized, it is time to examine new strategies and directions that go beyond the creation of an international framework to making an impact in the field, and in particular influence governments, insurgent groups and the international community to better protect and assist the internally displaced and prevent forcible displacement.