The Commission on Humanitarian Affairs of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies has as a priority programme the protection of and assistance to refugees, returnees, repatriate and internally displaced persons, with special emphasis on women, children and other vulnerable groups.
The Guiding Principles on Internally Displaced Persons, distilling the applicable provisions of international law although still lacking formal legal status, affirm the right of each person "to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence." Enumerated principles govern protection during displacement, "in particular from genocide, murder, summary or arbitrary execution and enforced disappearances."< Two principal conventions govern international refugee law matters: the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol. The Convention sets out the rights of refugees and the standards for their treatment in the countries that receive them. It defines "refugee" in Article 1A(2) as, "Any person who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his [or her] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself [or herself] of the protection of that country." Because the definition requires that a person be outside his or her country, it effectively excludes internally displaced persons from receiving international protection. Moreover, because it focuses on individualized persecution, it does not recognize situations of generalized violence (such as wars), natural disasters, and large-scale development projects as legitimate causes of flight.