A record-breaking 38 million people have been displaced within their own country by conflict or violence. This is the equivalent of the total populations of London, New York and Beijing combined. “These are the worst figures for forced displacement in a generation, signalling our complete failure to protect innocent civilians” said Jan Egeland, secretary general at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Today, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), part of NRC, launched its Global Overview 2015: People internally displaced by conflict and violence at the United Nations in Geneva. With internal displacement figures reaching a record high for the third year in a row, the report also documents how 11 million people were newly displaced by violent events in 2014 alone.
“Global diplomats, UN resolutions, peace talks and ceasefire agreements have lost the battle against ruthless armed men who are driven by political or religious interests rather than human imperatives,” said Egeland. “This report should be a tremendous wake-up call. We must break this trend where millions of men, women and children are becoming trapped in conflict zones around the world.”
Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said that the staggering number of internally displaced people because of conflict and violence is a harbinger of movements to come. “We know that more and more internally displaced have been forced to move within their country multiple times. The longer a conflict lasts, the more insecure they feel and when hopelessness sets in, many will cross borders and become refugees,” he said.
“As we have seen in the recent past, for example in the Mediterranean, despair drives people to take their chances and even risk dangerous boat journeys. The obvious solution lies in an all-out effort to bring about peace in war-ravaged countries,” Mr Türk added.
The report also highlights how long-lasting, or protracted displacement, contributes to this alarmingly high global total. In 2014, there were people living in displacement for ten years or more in nearly 90% of the 60 countries and territories IDMC monitored. “As new or renewed crises emerge in countries such as Ukraine or Iraq, new caseloads of internally displaced people join an already massive global displaced population who seem blocked from finding ways of ending their displacement” said Alfredo Zamudio, director of IDMC.
The IDMC report also describes how displacement often reveals underlying structural challenges within a country, and how it can be prolonged by a government’s deliberate politicisation of the issue or its refusal to enter into a formal resolution of a crisis. “Some 38 million human beings are suffering – often in horrendous conditions where they have no hope and no future—and unless we challenge ourselves to change our approach, the shockwaves of these conflicts will continue to haunt us for decades to come,” said Egeland.