Nairobi, 29 September 2021- On the eve of the report by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, UN-Habitat renews its commitment to furthering the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by offering governments practical expertise in urban internal displacement contexts and in durable solutions.

“UN-Habitat has been supporting countries and cities facing urban internal displacement challenges for a long time. The agency’s expertise on rapid urban population growth in crisis contexts helps to ensure that people in vulnerable situations, including IDPs and host populations have improved access to land, housing and services,” said Filiep Decorte, head of UN-Habitat’s Programme Development Branch.  

“Through an area-based approach, identifying, addressing, and reducing the root causes, for example around land and other natural resources conflicts, UN-Habitat provides technical expertise that will help to reduce inequalities, help build prosperity will foster greater social cohesion and contribute to the Humanitarian - Development - Peace Nexus,” he added.

The Secretary-General’s report “Shining a Light on Internal Displacement – A Vision for the Future” released Wednesday highlights that internal displacement is one of the world’s most neglected challenges, characterized by profound human suffering. The report calls for a peace-oriented approach which prioritises solutions at the local and national level, beyond humanitarian assistance.

The report of the High-Level Panel is launched shortly after a mission by the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights of Internally Displaced People (IDPs), Ms Cecilia Jiminez, and Prof. Chaloaka Beyani, Member of the Expert Advisory Group of the High-Level Panel Member, to Burkina Faso.

The mission was conducted to analyse and provide support and guidance to the Burkina Faso UN Country team, specifically on Housing Land and Property (HLP) rights and how to manage rapid urbanization in displacement contexts.  The country currently has more than 1.5 million IDPs, most of them having fled to small and secondary cities.

“During her mission to Burkina Faso, the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights of IDPs underlined the importance of tailored solutions for urban areas, strongly advocating for area-based and integrated approaches. UN-Habitat’s expertise on HLP rights and urbanization are key for this,” says Stephanie Loose, UN-Habitat’s Chief Technical Advisor for the Burkina Faso Country office.

In preparation for the High-Level Panel’s report, UN-Habitat,  together with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS), submitted a paper titled “IDPs in towns and cities – working with the realities of internal displacement in an urban world” and organised the high-level roundtable “Internal Displacement in an Increasingly Urbanized World” to support the consultations of the High-Level Panel with local actors. The round table reunited local authorities from Burkina-Faso, Iraq, Colombia, Ukraine, amongst others.

Apart from protection, food and shelter, IDPs need longer-term solutions, including access to housing, basic services and income generating activities. UN-Habitat office in Burkina Faso supports local authorities to better manage urban internal displacement with a pilot project, funded by the European Union’s Instrument for Stability and Peace.

With more than 55 million internally displaced people in 2020 and many of them trapped in protracted displacement situations, UN-Habitat has broad experience in supporting national and local governments in urban internal displacement contexts.

The area-based approach adopted by the Programme increases social cohesion between communities. Important topics include HLP rights in areas of arrival as well as places of origin, housing solutions and inclusive service provision as well as enhancing government authorities on creating an enabling environment and reducing inequalities in rapidly growing urban areas.

Among others, UN-Habitat’s work in that field has been notable in countries such Afghanistan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Sahel zone, specifically Burkina Faso.

In Ethiopia, UN-Habitat is supporting IDPs with strongly participatory approaches in engaging communities, local administrations, and governments in urban planning, spatial planning, shelter, WASH, environment and governance programmes to support the IDPs to relocate, return, or locally integrate in areas of choice.

In Mozambique, where around 700,000 people fled mainly to urban centres due to the armed conflict in the Northern Region of Cabo-Delgado Province since 2017, UN-Habitat is piloting a project on durable, gender-sensitive housing solutions in partnership with UN-Women. To promote integrated approaches for resilience to disasters and displacement, a second project is also being implemented in Ibo island with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

UN-Habitat also has long-term partnerships on resilient rehabilitation of schools to ensure IDPs’ continuous and adequate access to education in areas exposed to cyclones and other natural disasters.