More than 30 million people were internally displaced in 2017, report shows

Internally displaced people from Marawi's armed conflict in an evacuation center in Mindanao, Philippines. Photo by: ©EU / ECHO / CC BY-NC-ND

NEW YORK — The number of people newly displaced by conflict and disasters topped 30 million last year, according to a new International Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council report that called for long-term solutions.

Natural disasters caused the vast majority of displacement in 2017, upending approximately 18.8 million people’s lives in 135 countries. Floods and storms, especially tropical cyclones, were responsible for most of this displacement in the hardest-hit countries: China, the Philippines, Cuba, and the United States, according to the Global Report on Internal Displacement, released on Wednesday.

Conflict uprooted an additional 11.8 million, nearly double the 2016 figure of 6.9 million. 2017 estimates mirrored the pattern of previous recent years — most of the conflict-related displacement took place in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, in addition to “significant” new displacement in South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific.

“The staggering number of people forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and violence must serve as an eye opener to us all,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s secretary general, in a media statement. “We are getting better at providing emergency aid, but we need to put a lot more effort into preventing displacement, protecting people, and finding long-term solutions.”

An unprecedented 65.6 million people were displaced worldwide at the end of 2016, according to United Nations estimates.

“It’s time for an honest conversation on the most effective ways to turn the tide on this global crisis.”

— Alexandra Bilak, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Last month in Geneva, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced a new global plan that calls on governments to help reduce the number of displaced people. The framework, formally called the Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons, recognizes “the number of people affected by internal displacement has been on an upward trajectory for decades,” according to the draft document. The framework calls for specific actions, like facilitating internally displaced community participation in processes for development and peace building.

The April announcement of the framework, set to run through 2020, came at the 20th anniversary of the U.N. standards for internally displaced, known as the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. 

“Internal displacement often heralds the start of broader crises. While we have seen some useful policy progress since the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 20 years ago, it is nowhere near enough to cope with, much less reduce, the scale of the problem,” said Alexandra Bilak, director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, in a media statement.

“Without renewed action, we risk failing millions of internally displaced people worldwide, and holding back the development of the countries which host them. It’s time for an honest conversation on the most effective ways to turn the tide on this global crisis. This conversation must be led by affected countries and receive full support from the international community,” she continued.

Rising humanitarian needs top $25 billion for 2018, with the aim to reach 131 million people, according to the U.N. So far, only $2.97 billion of that has been received.

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  • Lieberman amy

    Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the New York Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.