Special Workshop: ‘Revitalising IDP Research’
20 Years of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

Refugee Law Initiative, University of London
20 July 2018

On 20 July, following their Third Annual Conference, the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) hosted a special one-day workshop on internally displaced persons (IDPs) entitled ‘Revitalising IDP Research’. The workshop was designed to mark and celebrate 20 years of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and to take a step towards consolidating and revitalising academic interest in IDP issues.

This workshop was generously supported by the John Coffin Trust.


The 20th anniversary of the adoption in 1998 of the UN Guiding Principles offered a unique opportunity to reflect not only on their influence on internal displacement globally but also on the global state of research and practice on internally displaced persons (IDPs). This special IDP Workshop provided a forum for researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and students to come together to present, debate and reflect on this field and its future. It offered the chance to begin developing new research and policy agendas and collaborations.

Urgent debate and new thinking on IDPs is required by the sheer scale of the challenges. Since 1998, the Guiding Principles have promoted a common approach to IDPs. Yet over 40 million IDPs remain displaced due to conflict. Over 200 million were displaced due to disasters in just the last ten years. These figures dwarf the number of refugees (22.5 million).

Moreover, with IDPs present in more than 125 countries, attention to IDPs is a major part of the humanitarian effort. Similarly, higher levels of poverty among IDPs means that internal displacement also represents a real challenge for the development and security sectors. Yet a relative paucity of new thinking and research on IDPs marks the past ten years. This is reflected in the fact that there are no dedicated academic research centres focused on IDP issues.


The IDP Workshop aimed to promote renewed research on IDPs and internal displacement. Alongside presentations of new research by more than 25 leading experts in the field the event hosted a keynote presentation by Cecilia Jimenez-Damary (UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons), and special input from Professor Walter Kälin (University of Bern and former UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons).

Furthermore, the closing session of the event workshopped proposals around forming an academic network and of various ways to promote and build upon IDP research. The event has already been recognised by a number of leading experts in the field as a breakthrough and an important step in promoting current and future research and academia on IDP issues.

The full programme and methodology of the workshop can be found here.

The event was attended by around 100 delegates from around the world (from Europe, Africa, East Asia, Australia, the Caribbean and America), with participants including government officials, policy-makers, academics, lawyers, practitioners and students. The RLI welcomed colleagues from number of key academic institutions, and major organisations represented at the workshop included UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS), the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Platform on Disaster Displacement.

Presentations and Posters:

A selection of presentation slides of papers and posters that were presented at the workshop are available here.

Future Initiatives:

Follow-up from the workshop included the preparation (by RLI) of a state-of-the-art report summarising the new research presented at the workshop and placing it in the context of existing scholarship on IDP issues. This report will provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of IDP research and provide a valuable resource for the field. This will be accompanied by efforts to develop a network of IDP scholars, researchers and practitioners (facilitated by the RLI but increasingly participant-driven) that will then be able to mobilise on a range of research, advocacy and networking functions.