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United Nations: Human rights approach needed for internally displaced people’s housing, land and property

The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Cecilia Jimenez-Damary presented a report to the Human Rights Council, stating that an approach which engages humanitarian, development, peace and climate stakeholders is needed to address the issue. In addition, she highlighted the particular vulnerability of women, indigenous peoples and pastoralists, specifically regarding their reduced ability to secure tenure, land use, land ownership and inheritance.

According to the latest data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2020, around 48 million people were displaced from their homes within their own countries, the highest figure ever recorded. Jimenez-Damary also noted that in a scenario of conflict, violations of housing, land and property rights for these groups are exacerbated. Discriminatory strategies are often used to displace groups based on their religious, ethnic, social or political affiliation, and to prevent their return.

Jimenez-Damary observes that engagement of internally displaced people is critical for a more wide-ranging approach to address human rights concerns related to housing, land and property. Furthermore,  prevention and resolution of disputes could be ensured through recognising and protecting legitimate rights to land and natural resources, including acknowledgement of customary law where appropriate. In addition to short-term measures, she urged that long-term structural and institutional reforms be implemented in order to improve governance in the justice, land and urban administration sectors. In post-conflict situations housing, land and property issues should be systematically included in all negotiations, peace agreements and transitional justice arrangements.