(Special Rapporteur Beyani is participating in a roundtable hosted by USAID Deputy Administrator Steinberg on March 22.  USAID supports the work of the Special Rapporteur through the Brookings-London School of Economics (LSE) Project on Internal Displacement.)

As a reader of this blog, I invite and challenge you to do more in a personal capacity to join efforts and work daily to advance human rights in the world and enhance international development or peacebuilding efforts.  The more you and do so the more we will realize that there is a multiplying force of reliable partners in achieving tangible and lasting results.

For the most part of my life, I have been involved in human rights work in various capacities. But the past year and a half saw me assume the role of an independent expert with responsibility for maintaining and continuing to advance the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). I inherited the mandate from two pioneers in the field of internal displacement, Francis Deng and Walter Kälin, and have done my best to continue building upon previous achievements towards protecting and assisting IDPs. And I believe that Francis and Walter would agree that as the mandate reaches its 20th anniversary this year that much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done.

It is clear that since the beginning of the international community’s response to internal displacement, it has been the collective action of dedicated civil society organizations, government agencies, supportive donors, key scholars and academics, and passionate advocates for change that have made the difference. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are the bedrock upon which much has been built, and they are a product of teamwork. Other landmark documents and normative frameworks, including the Framework for Durable Solutions (which outlines the necessary criteria to end displacement) and the African Union’s Kampala Convention (the first binding regional treaty on IDPs), are similarly products of dedicated and collaborative efforts.

The unfortunate truth is that despite tremendous progress, today there are still some 27 million IDPs around the world who have fled situations of armed conflict or human rights abuses. Many millions more are displaced each year by natural disasters, development projects, and increasingly, the effects of climate change. The Guiding Principles outline the basic steps necessary to prevent, respond to, and bring an end to internal displacement, but their application into national legal policy frameworks remains a challenging objective.

My current goals as Special Rapporteur and co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement include continuing to promote the Guiding Principles and other normative frameworks for advancing assistance and protection to IDPs; expanding the scope of the international community’s understanding of IDPs beyond camp settings to the vast majority of IDPs who live outside designated settlements;  focusing our collective energies on what can be done for women IDPs, particularly in regard to (re)generating livelihoods; and expanding the appreciation of, and response to, the increasingly damaging effects of climate change as a cause of displacement.

I believe that USAID and other development partners will continue to play an important role in advancing this ambitious agenda, including through its continuing support of the Brookings-LSE Project. Among other aspects of its work, USAID in particular has been a strong supporter of the Project’s work on human rights-based responses to natural disasters and dissemination of key publications and research.

Knowing that USAID, and hopefully you the reader, champion the cause of assistance to IDPs as well is an important first step in maintaining and expanding the network of likeminded individuals and organizations necessary to continue the march towards the full and unflinching fulfilment of the human rights of IDPs and vulnerable populations everywhere.  I sincerely thank you for contributing to our collective efforts and look forward to working with you—in whatever capacity you can offer –on this most important endeavour.