The Emerging Customary Nature of International Norms on Internal Displacement

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This research (November 2007 – March 2009) systematically reviews the international legal framework relevant to internal displacement and effectively demonstrates that the claims of its absence are incorrect and misleading. First basic legal characteristics relevant to internal displacement, its instalment in international law and its relation to some fundamental international legal principles are addressed. The subsequent review of applicable legal regimes and sources in combination with a substantial analysis of norms reveals that the majority of the IDP-protection provisions are well established in international human rights and humanitarian law. They are applicable to all forms of recognised (i.e. conflict-, disaster- and development-induced) internal displacement and they can, moreover, offer a legal basis for protection from and during new forms of internal displacement. But their implementation and enforcement in these situations is vague and categorically denied, which renders a far-reaching conclusion inapplicable to all categories of IDPs.

Although it is impossible to assert that IDP-protection has attained customary nature in international law similar to that of refugee-protection, it is undisputable that many of the IDP-protection provisions are rooted in customary international law or draw heavily from it. Moreover, the examination of the practice of international governmental and non-governmental institutions dealing with IDPs at both the headquarters and field levels demonstrates that in situations of humanitarian emergencies IDPs are increasingly treated as a special operational category. This effectively contributes to their protection needs being met, but also adds to their de facto legal recognition through approved international practice. Whether such treatment will ever result in the explicit legally distinct recognition of IDPs is questionable, if not unlikely.

Full text is available here for download or web preview.

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