The Brookings Institution and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) have created a joint project to promote more effective national, regional, and international policies to deal with the crisis of 25 million people displaced within the borders of their own countries by war and ethnic strife.
The project will be co-directed by Francis M. Deng, the UN Secretary-General’s representative on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, and a research professor in International Politics, Law, and Society at SAIS, and Roberta Cohen, a senior fellow at Brookings and an expert on human rights, humanitarian, and displacement issues. Cohen is Deng’s senior adviser in his capacity as representative of the Secretary-General.
The work of the new joint project will be reinforced by a Center for Displacement Studies to be created at SAIS. The Brookings-SAIS project will continue the work Deng and Cohen have pursued at Brookings since 1994, which is designed to raise international awareness of the plight of internally displaced persons. The underlying factor in creating the joint project is that refugees who cross national borders receive extensive support from the international community, while internally displaced persons do not.
In 1998, Brookings published the first major study on the plight of internally displaced persons, titled Masses in Flight: The Global Crisis of Internal Displacement. Brookings also organized and supervised the legal process that produced the first international standards for IDPs, known as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which were issued by the UN. The Principles have been widely accepted internationally by governments, intergovernmental bodies, and nongovernmental organizations.
Among the planned activities of the new Brookings-SAIS partnership are seminars on internal displacement to be held in Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, and Uganda to raise awareness of the problem; outreach programs to local communities in Colombia, Somalia, and Sri Lanka; monitoring programs in South Asia and the South Caucasus; and research projects focused on the displacement of Kurds and Shi’a Muslims in Iraq, the role of international peacekeepers in protecting IDPs, conditions of IDPs in areas controlled by insurgent groups, and the role of national human rights commissions in coping with IDPs. The project will also undertake a survey with the UN on how IDPs are protected by UN agencies and NGOs on the ground and provide recommendations for more effective response.
Co-director Roberta Cohen noted, “We actually have programs on the ground to help IDPs. The program also tries to promote access to countries that obstruct or even outright refuse entry to those at risk or to humanitarian workers trying to help IDPs.”