In 2005, my stepfather in Zambia, David Busiku Mainza contributed to a pamphlet on the Tonga people, some 57,000 of whom were resettled in 1957 and 1958 from the Zambezi Valley after their villages were flooded because of rising waters during the construction of the Kariba dam. The vivid memories he shared with the little book’s author, Elisabeth Thomson, the then curator of the BaTonga Museum in Binga, Zimbabwe, demonstrate the damaging repercussions of such upheaval over generations.
Decades later, as I survey the priorities of the international community as chief executive of Christian Aid, I note with despair that there is one glaring omission on the agenda for the formal discussions as representatives from world governments gather at the UN General Assembly in New York: internal displacement.
And so, 20 years on from the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, it is time for world leaders to stand in solidarity with those who have fled their homes but not crossed borders. Many of them are the poorest and most vulnerable in their communities – including women, children, elderly and disabled people – and yet, so often, they receive none of the support and protection to which refugees are entitled.
Displaced on average for 15 years, often repeatedly, most exist w