A 90-year-old woman in South Bolivar, Colombia was forced to leave her home when paramilitaries burned her village to the ground in 1998. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than three million people have fled a decade of instability and conflict in what has been called "Africa's Civil War." The unrest in Chechnya has led the United Nations to say that "the region remains one of the world's least safe."
Millions of people - from Iraq to Indonesia - have been forced to flee their homes to escape violence and persecution. But while the plight of refugees has dominated the international and institutional spotlight, providing protection and assistance to those who have not crossed international borders is often even more complex and difficult.
Today, at least 25 million people have been displaced by violence and persecution but remain within the borders of their own countries. Internal displacement is both a policy challenge and a human tragedy of immense proportions.
Because internally displaced people remain the responsibility of their governments, addressing issues surrounding them often raises sensitive questions of sovereignty. For the first time ever, the United Nations has published a book addressing the unique concerns of internally displaced people as well as efforts to strengthen the international response to their needs.
No Refuge: The Challenge of Internal Displacement examines current actions to assist and protect internally displaced people-and the obstacles that continue to reduce the effectiveness of those efforts. In addition to barriers raised by concerns about national sovereignty, international efforts are hampered by the sheer danger and remoteness of the places where the internally displaced are found, along with a lack of clear institutional responsibility and a chronic shortage of resources.
Commissioned by the Internal Displacement Unit of the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, the book gives a perspective on the emergence of internal displacement on the international agenda and demonstrates that some substantial progress has been made diplomatically and legally to persuade governments and international agencies to focus greater attention on the needs of people who have been forced to flee their homes but remain within their own countries.
The book analyses crises, successes and lessons learned - and not learned - in Sudan, Colombia, Afghanistan and many other countries, while preserving a voice for the displaced. As Francis Deng, the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, comments about the book, "While underscoring the situations of extremely vulnerability in which internally displaced persons find themselves, the pages that follow do not treat internally displaced persons simply as helpless, silent victims but allow their voices to be heard."
Kofi Asomani, Director of OCHA's Internal Displacement Unit notes, "Internal displacement is one of the most pressing humanitarian, human rights and security challenges of our time. By publishing a book on the subject, the United Nations has signaled the greater focus and priority that the organization as a whole has given the issue in recent years."
The principal author is Kathleen Newland, co-founder and co-director of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Ms. Newland has written extensively on forced migration and asylum issues, including the first State of the World's Refugees report for UNHCR in 1993. Contributing authors include MPI associates Erin Patrick and Monette Zard.
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