Synopsis by Serena diBiase

In October 2016 at The Ottawa Process Twenty Years Later, Erin Mooney, Senior Protection Adviser for the United Nations Protection Capacity & Senior Research, spoke about the perils faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the unique challenge of providing them with humanitarian support.

Internally Displaced Persons are people forced to leave their homes by conflict, but stay within their country’s borders. Unlike refugees, who cross international borders to seek sought refuge in another country, IDPs do not cross a state boundary. Once someone crosses a state boundary and becomes a refugee, they have protections under international law. That is not the case with IDPs, who remain subject to authorities in their home country.

Many IDPs live find themselves living in strange communities or camps controlled by the state which is a party to the conflict they are fleeing. Without family support or a source of income, they become vulnerable to the dangers of working in underground economies. A large proportion of IDPs are women and children, who face an increased risk of abuse, assault and abduction.

In this podcast, Mooney addresses the risks that Syrian IDPs face every day. Mooney states that of the 9.5 million people that have been forced to flee their homes (at the time of recording), more than two-thirds are displaced within Syria. To date, Syria has the most IDPs worldwide. These people risk abuse and attacks while trying to flee, and often lack access to food or water, shelter or medical care. Many end up in parts of the country that are difficult for humanitarian workers to access due to conflict.

In Sri Lanka, landmines kept IDPs from returning home long after the end of its 26-year conflict. In fact, demining is essential to creating a community post-conflict. Returning IDPs need housing, clean water, employment, education, and health care. Before rebuilding can begin, land must be free of mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Click the play button to hear Ms. Mooney speak about the challenge of assisting IDPs.