Development environment

Conflict and violence

Displacement in the context of conflict and violence

At the end of 2016 there were 40.3 million people living in ongoing, protracted internal displacement by conflict and violence.

GRID2017 Conflict and violence map

The total number of internally displaced people has nearly doubled since 2000 and increased sharply over the last five years.

This trend is caused by the intractability of conflicts and crises in many parts of the world, fuelled and complicated by under-development in countries with little capacity to cope with crises - notably in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa - where internally displaced people face enormous obstacles in going back to their lives.

Additionally, the many underlying drivers of displacement, which include poverty and inequality, fragile and weak governance, rapid unplanned urbanisation, climate change and environmental degradation show no sign of abating.

People internally displaced amid ongoing conflict live in flux, and are likely to become displaced again, whether within or across borders.

Some conflicts and the displacement they cause may fall off the international radar and become overshadowed by “newer” crises. Because their underlying drivers go unaddressed, they resurface cyclically when a new wave of violence and displacement erupts.

Two-thirds of the world’s 65 million people displaced by conflict are displaced internally. This means that globally there are roughly twice as many IDPs as refugees. The gap between the two groups has been growing since 1997.


20170617Refugees and IDPS displaced by conflict and violence 1990 to 2016

New displacement by conflict and violence in 2016

There were 6.9 million new internal displacements caused by conflict and violence in 2016, the equivalent of 15,000 people forced to flee their homes every day.

Most conflict displacement occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) being the country with the highest figure.

Are today’s IDPs tomorrow’s refugees?

It is often assumed that many refugees were internally displaced along their journey and that IDPs are prime candidates to become refugees or migrants. The link between the two phenomena, however, is poorly understood and not systematically measured.

The evidence currently available indicates that the push and pull factor for internal displacement from areas affected by conflict are similar to those reported by refugees.

Six of the ten countries that produced the most refugees in 2015 – Afghanistan, CAR, Colombia, DRC, South Sudan and Syria – were also among the ten with the largest number of IDPs.

Under-reported: displacement by generalised violence

People flee generalised violence in a number of forms, from gang violence and drug traffickers’ turf wars in Central America to clan feuds in the Philippines and post-electoral violence in Burundi and Burkina Faso. Their movements are not however systematically monitored worldwide.

There is far less information on people who flee criminal violence than on those displaced by conflict, and an even weaker response to their plight. Given the high rates of urban violence and homicide in some of the world’s major cities, many more people are probably displaced globally by this type of violence than the current data reflects.

Our Global Report on Internal Displacement 2017 (GRID) has a spotlight on El Salvador and its invisible displacement caused by criminal and gang violence.