Global Resources

Global overview 2015: people internally displaced by conflict and violence

Author: A. Bilak, M. Caterina, G. Charron
Publisher: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Publication Date: May 2015

Since the end of the Cold War, changing geopolitical forces and the rise of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have radically reshaped the nature and scale of the internal displacement of people around the globe. At the end of 2014, armed conflict had caused approximately 33 million people to leave their home and find refuge in a different part of their country. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in 2014 increased 15% over the previous year, and represents the largest annual increase ever recorded by the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).


Drawing on data gathered from national governments, the UN and other international agencies, national and international NGOs, human rights organisations, media reports and IDPs themselves, this report provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of internal displacement around the world. In this year's edition, the IDMC focus on protracted displacement, and the cross-border and regional impacts internal displacement can cause. To this end, this report groups countries into eight regions: the Americas, central Africa, east Africa, west Africa, the Middle East and north Africa, Europe, the Caucasus and central Asia, south Asia, and south-east Asia. In this way, phenomena such as the 'domino-effect' can be highlighted, and the issue can be framed in a way that better reflects its' complex and dynamic nature.


The first chapter describes the scale and principal trends, as well as the causes and impacts of displacement worldwide in 2014. Increasing violence in South Sudan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria account for as much as 60% of the annual increase, as huge swaths of peoples seek to escape violence and discrimination, often religious and tribal in nature. In all but Nigeria, more than a million people were displaced in each of the aforementioned countries. The Ukraine and El Salvador were included in the report for the first time, the former due to armed conflict, the latter due to newly available data; together they added almost one million IDPs to the global total. Iraq suffered the most new displacement in 2014, with around 2.2 million IDPs fleeing from Islamic State advances. The country with the most IDPs in total was Syria at 7.6 million people (or 35% of its population).


Key trends identified include a significant increase in IDPs across north Africa and the Middle-East, where 3.8 million new IDPs brought the total figure in the region to 11.9 million (31% of IDPs globally). While 90% of this number consists of people in Syria or Iraq, Libya's displaced population grew six-fold. Additionally, 11.4 million IDPs are spread across 22 sub-Saharan African countries, with millions in South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria fleeing religious-based NSAGs such as Boko Haram. Figures of IDPs for countries in the Americas remain high but stable, with ongoing protracted displacement in Colombia accounting for the majority of people. New displacement has occurred in Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, often due to drug-related violence. Europe and Asia are also experiencing significant new displacement, which is primarily associated with the conflict in Ukraine, counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan, and ethnic clashes in India.


The report goes on to discuss in greater detail the nature of internal displacement by region, covering figures and causes of displacement, displacement patterns, protection issues, and national and international responses. This chapter also includes seven country spotlights in the context of protracted displacement, highlighting specific challenges related to the issue in each of these countries. Throughout the report, space is given as a platform to hear directly from IDPs themselves, providing a human face and voice to what is a desperate issue.


The third chapter takes a closer look at protracted displacement, pinpointing the main barriers to overcoming it, including the absence of a shared and actionable definition of protracted displacement, as well as lack of political will. The report identifies the features and dynamics of protracted displacement worldwide, and acknowledges the strains that displacement can have both on host-countries and neighbouring regions. The issues faced by women in particular in protracted displacement are then examined. Women are especially endangered in such situations; as tensions rise and resources deplete, women can be forced into sex work, and/or suffer increased domestic violence and exploitation. Also discussed are the issues of urban housing, sustainable livelihoods, normative frameworks and durable solutions strategies, and policy advances.


Finally, the report highlights concerns about the methodological challenges of gathering figures and information on internal displacement. Data requirements and shortfalls are outlined, as well as ways of assessing and describing the internal displacement more accurately. The risk of 'double-counting', or entirely missing, IDPs in data collection is discussed. There is also an emphasis on the need for reliable, regular, sex-disaggregated data to understand such an ever-changing and dynamic problem.