More than 2.5 million Europeans in 11 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe continue to be deprived of their homes and possessions as the result of various conflicts lasting decades without resolution.

These persons are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and most of them live in destitution, struggle to enjoy their rights and suffer marginalisation within their societies.

The report calls for reinvigorated efforts by the international community to find political solutions to the many unresolved conflicts and to build up strong legal and normative frameworks ensuring that IDPs can fully enjoy their human rights. The continued failure to tackle the root causes of displacement, impunity for past crimes and negligence of the interests of IDPs carry a serious political risk that the protracted conflicts may re-ignite, which may in turn lead to new displacements.

Relevant national and local authorities should pursue targeted and consistent policies that aim at improving the human rights and living conditions of IDPs and enable them to integrate – even if temporarily – in their places of displacement or elsewhere in the country, without prejudice to the ultimate possibility of their return.

IDPs must be empowered to make voluntary and informed choices as regards their return or integration, provided access to effective procedures to reclaim property and possessions, provided with access to livelihoods and adequate living conditions, encouraged to participate in public affairs at all levels without discrimination and be involved in the decision-making processes on issues concerning them.

The report calls for continued international donor assistance to IDPs in terms of resources, technical expertise and knowledge sharing. It puts forward a number of concrete proposals to the Committee of Ministers, other bodies of the Council of Europe and the European Union in view of finding durable solutions for IDPs. It calls for improved observance of international protection standards and rights, and desired activities to tackle Europe’s amnesia towards its “forgotten people”.

8 June 2009

The report is available here.