If the 2030 Agenda is to “leave no one behind”, this must include IDPs


Experts at the first International Forum on Migration Statistics this month talked extensively about the need for more data on human mobility to support the 2030 Agenda. Yet despite the clear nexus between internal displacement and the Sustainable Development Goals, little if any attention was given to the issue. IDMC’s researcher Christelle Cazabat shares her views and explains why this was a major oversight.

Last month, I attended the first International Forum on Migration Statistics. The event was put on by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the International Organisation for Migration, and I was eager to hear what some 700 participants, including leading figures in the field of forced population movement, would have to say about data and analysis on internal displacement.

The first sessions discussed the need for more information on human mobility to work on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They talked about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, but, disappointingly, made little or no mention of internally displaced people (IDPs). Of 38 sessions, only one was dedicated to the issue. When I tried to raise it during a session on monitoring progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I was shocked by the answer: “We are only looking at data that is relevant for the SDGs”.

I realised that, even amongst this group of migration experts, the case is yet to be made about the links between internal displacement and the 2030 Agenda. And this despite the agenda’s clear mention of IDPs as a vulnerable group that should not be left behind.

Governments have committed to pay particular attention to vulnerable groups, meaning they should collect disaggregated data and design specific programmes to support their development. So far though, only a handful of countries have considered internal displacement in their SDG monitoring framework.

It’s true to say that the SDGs do not include specific targets on the issue, but several are directly related. Target 10.7, to “facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies” should clearly include internal displacement, as should target 17.18, “to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics”.

Goal 13, to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, includes “strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity”, with progress to be measured by the reduction in the number of people affected by disasters. The vast majority of the millions of people who flee disasters each year are displaced internally.

What’s more, every SDG is relevant to internal displacement, and vice versa. And the phenomenon impedes progress toward their achievement in a much broader but even less considered way. It represents a significant cost to national economies.
That cost has never been quantified systematically, and this is something that the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) will focus on in 2018, but anecdotal evidence leaves little doubt as to the burden it represents. The cost of providing assistance and support to IDPs and their host communities, not to mention the loss of productivity and economic potential displacement causes, mean that fewer resources are available for development.

The first International Forum on Migration Statistics was a much-needed step forward in the global discussion about human mobility and development. It confirmed the international community’s growing interest in reducing forced displacement and reaping the potential benefits of migration. Its success will surely lead to future events, where it will be essential to ensure that internal displacement is given the consideration it requires and deserves.