Key Issues

Protection by Involvement

A right and community-based participatory approach is essential to create meaningful involvement by camp residents in protection and assistance activities. This will not only empower the community as actors in their own protection, but also assist the Camp Management Agency and other protection actors to ensure that the rights of all camp residents are identified and upheld. The community’s leadership, but also other representatives of men, women and youth, should be included in the design of programming and assistance activities.


Protection for Whom?

While all human rights apply to all persons regardless of their legal status, be they IDPs, refugees, stateless person or any other person living in a camp, some rights apply differently to nationals and non-nationals. Refugees and stateless persons do not necessarily enjoy certain rights to the same extent as nationals. Therefore the Camp Management Agency must:

  • know the legal status of the displaced population
  • be familiar with national and international laws applicable to the camp population in order to better promote their rights
  • be familiar with customary laws and practices of relevance in dispute resolution.


A refugee is any person outside his or her country of nationality or, if stateless, outside his or her country of habitual residence, and unable to return there owing to:

  • a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion
  • serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalised violence or events seriously disturbing public order.


Legal Instruments for Refugees' Status and Rights

The main international legal instrument related to the status and rights of refugees is the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol (1951 Convention). Regional instruments relevant to refugees include the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969) and the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (1984).


Principle of Non-refoulement

The cornerstone of refugee law is the principle of non-refoulement, which states that a refugee should not be returned in any manner to the country where his/her life or freedom would be threatened on account of her/his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This principle is also part of customary international law and thus legally binding on all states.


Internally Displaced Persons

IDPs are people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised border. Most often they are citizens of that country, although they may also be non-national habitual residents.

Under national legislation applicable to the country in question there may or may not be a specific legal status for IDPs. They are, however, entitled to the same protection by the national authorities as any other citizen or habitual resident.


IDPs' Rights

There are no specific international conventions related to IDPs. However, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, issued in 1998, provide a framework for the identification of the rights, guarantees, and standards relevant to the protection of individuals in situations of internal displacement. They reflect and are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law, and refugee law by analogy.

There are two regional initiatives that bind government to provide legal protection to IDPs: the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDP's in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention, that came into force in 2012, and the Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to IDP's included in the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region that entered into force in 2008.


What distinguishes a refugee from an IDP?

Refugee IDP
  • has crossed a border
  • cause of flight does not include natural disaster
  • has lost the protection of his/ her own country
  • his/her status entitles him/her to certain rights
  • is displaced within his/her own country
  • cause of flight include natural disasters
  • home country still in charge of her/his protection
  • does not have special status under international law but should enjoy same rights as other citizens


Pinheiro Principles on Housing and Property Restitution

Adopted in 2005, the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons – otherwise known as the Pinheiro Principles – are the international standard outlining the rights of refugees and displaced persons to return not only to their countries, but also to their original homes and lands, and when this is not possible, to receive just and satisfactory compensation adequate to replace their housing, land and property (HLP) losses. A handbook released in 2007 provides practical guidance for the implementation of the Pinheiro Principles.


Stateless Persons

Stateless people are those who are not considered nationals of any state. Most lack any legal status in their country of residence and are thus without effective national protection.


Stateless Persons' Rights

The 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons declares that “everyone has the right to a nationality”. It is complemented by the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Only 83 states have both signed and ratified the 1954 Convention.


In situations of displacement, stateless persons may be the most vulnerable, often facing discrimination when seeking to access rights generally available to nationals, such as registration of their children at birth or issuance of other forms of documentation.

Stateless persons may also be among the refugee population. If they meet the definition of refugee, they are entitled to refugee status and rights.


As a result of conflict or disasters, girls and boys are killed or injured, become orphaned, are separated from their families, are recruited into armed forces or groups, trafficked or simultaneously experience several of these traumas. They may have no access to school and food, thus hampering their proper psychological and physical development.

Despite the fact that refugee and IDP children are protected by the same international and national laws as adults, children need additional safeguards and care due to their physical and mental immaturity. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action were developed to ensure child protection.


Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by the General Assembly of 20 November 1989, and entered into force 2 September 1990. It has been ratified by all UN Member States except the United States, Somalia and Sudan.

The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action were developed by the Global Child Protection Working Group in 2012. They are intended for use by those working on child protection or related areas of humanitarian action.


The main purpose of the minimum standards is to ensure quality and accountability in child protection work. Child protection in emergencies includes specific activities by child protection actors, whether national or community-based, and/or by humanitarian staff supporting local capacities. The Camp Management Agency must seek to ensure application of the minimum standards. Below are some that apply to camp management:

  • Standard 1 – Coordination: The agency must ensure child protection responses are prioritised, efficient, predictable and effective.
  • Standard 13 – Unaccompanied and Separated Children: Family separation must be prevented, acknowledged and responded to. Unaccompanied and separated children are cared for and protected according to their specific needs and in accordance with their best interests.
  • Standard 15 – Case Management: Girls and boys with urgent child protection needs should receive age- and culturally appropriate information as well as an effective, multisectorial and child-friendly response from relevant providers working in a coordinated and accountable manner.
  • Standard 20 – Education and Child Protection: Child protection concerns need to be reflected in the assessment, design, monitoring and evaluation of education programmes. Boys and girls of all ages can access safe, high-quality, child-friendly, flexible, relevant and protective learning opportunities in a protective environment.

☞ For more information on minimum standards for child protection, see the document on Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action in the References section.


Protection by Whom?

National authorities are responsible for protecting and promoting the rights of all persons being on their territory. States are sometimes unable to fulfil these obligations if they lack capacity, resources or political will. National authorities are also sometimes unwilling to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of certain groups of persons.

Therefore, the international community has mandated a number of organisations to support governments to fulfil their obligations. These agencies have a specific expertise in protection. The main protection agencies are:

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

UNHCR is mandated by the UN to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR has also received a global mandate to work in cooperation with other relevant partners for the identification, prevention, and reduction of statelessness and to further the protection of stateless persons. As a result of humanitarian reforms over the last decade UNHCR has been designated as the global Cluster Lead Agency for protection of IDPs.


Mandated Protection Agencies

At a country level, UNHCR is the Protection Cluster Lead in situations of complex emergencies.

Within the protection cluster, the following five areas of responsibility have been identified and assigned to a specific agency:

  • rule of law: the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • gender-based violence: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • child protection: the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • mine action: the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)
  • housing, land and property: (UN-HABITAT).

In case of natural disasters, UNICEF, UNHCR and OHCHR consult and determine the most appropriate leadership structure.



UNICEF is mandated by the UN General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.


The mission of the OHCHR is to work for the protection of all human rights for all people, to help empower people to realise their rights and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights to ensure they are implemented.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

ICRC is an independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.


Tracing Families

Where armed violence or natural disasters lead to the displacement of populations and the separation of families, the ICRC can organise tracing services in collaboration with the relevant national Red Cross or Red Crescent Society. They may be encouraged to come regularly to the camp or to establish a permanent presence there. ICRC assists the camp population in tracing family members and remains in contact with their relatives living in areas cut off by the conflict. They work closely with UNICEF to provide tracing and reunification services for children and adolescents.


☞ For more information on mandated agencies, see Protection Agency Mandate and Area of Expertise in the References section.

Non-mandated Protection Agencies

Non-mandated protection agencies are national or international non-governmental organisations (NGO). Most participate in the work of the Global Protection Cluster Working Group. They play an invaluable role in strengthening international protection through monitoring, reporting and advocating on violations of human rights. Non-mandated agencies may focus on such specific rights as freedom of expression, the right to education or the right to health, or may specialise in providing assistance and capacity-building to selected groups, including children, persons with disabilities, older persons, refugees and/or IDPs.


Roles and Responsibilities

Through its coordination responsibility at camp level, the Camp Management Agency has a role in supporting competent authorities to fulfil their protection obligations. Their support is also fundamental for protection agencies and other NGOs and service providers. Relevant protection matters in the camp must be brought to the attention of the national authorities or the competent organisation(s), which may include a protection lead agency or mandated agencies, in a timely manner.

A Camp Management Agency needs to have a good understanding of protection, its legal framework including national law, as well as the main specialised actors in humanitarian protection. The Camp Management Agency also needs to understand that members of the camp community are exposed to different protection risks, and that risks, as well as needs, often depend on age, gender, ethnicity, religion and disabilities.

The Camp Management Agency must additionally:

  • have the right attitude and be in touch with people and life in the camp
  • be approachable by the camp population
  • be open-minded and strive to be active listeners and to be positive and proactive
  • understand that their attitude influences people’s feeling of being protected
  • respect the confidentiality of personal information so as to avoid further protection risks for individuals and keep the confidence of the camp population over time
  • always engage in constructive dialogue with people at risk and avoid discriminatory and harmful effects in their protection role.

The Camp Management Agency’s responsibilities in relation to protection include:

Creating a safe environment by reducing the likelihood of protection risks. This entails:

  • integration of a protection perspective in the coordination with all stakeholders
  • proper registration of all people living in the camp including persons with specific needs
  • supporting people’s own coping mechanisms.

Conducting situational analysis of the protection risks and gaps faced by the camp population by:

  • profiling of the camp population
  • participatory assessment exercises
  • mapping of protection actors relating to specific protection issues.

Involving the camp population in activities and decisionmaking in the camp through:

  • a participative approach in all activities
  • setting up a camp governance system
  • ensuring the transparent election of camp population representatives to participate in decision-making forums.

Monitoring compliance with relevant law, and ensuring acknowledgement of shortfalls and violations in close coordination with the Protection Lead Agency. This is done by:

  • collection of alleged violations of human rights
  • analysis of trends and patterns to enhance the quality of advocacy around rights violations with the authorities.

Supporting response mechanisms to address protection incidents by:

  • implementation of a protection referral and response system known to all
  • following up of individual and collective cases in close collaboration with communities in the camp.


Incident Reporting Form

An incident reporting form should be easy to use and manage by the Camp Management Agency for the registering of an incident and for referral to specialised actors in or outside the camp. Information such as name, gender, age and type of incident is important as well as identification of the specialised agency to which the person is referred.

Sensitive information about the incident is confidential. It does not need to be registered on the form, as this is only of importance for such specialised actors as health agencies and the police.

The form also needs to have space that permits the Camp Management Agency to follow up whether the case is closed or needs further support. All this information should be fed into a database which the Camp Management Agency can use to monitor trends and statistics on the type of incidents, age or gender for report writing and advocacy purposes.

See Protection Incident Form under Tools section.


Implementing preventive measures through planned provision of assistance and services.

  • This may involve food distributions as well as all other services. They must be constantly monitored and evaluated to ensure equal and safe access for the camp population.

Disseminating knowledge of relevant laws.

  • This entails providing training for rights holders, such as the camp and the host populations, and duty bearers, including the national authorities, security forces (police, peace-keepers and the military), and other humanitarian actors. This must be done in close coordination with the Protection Lead Agency.


Protection in Practice: Birth, Marriage and Death Registration

Civil documentation is essential to ensure that all individuals can access their rights. Key civil documentations include birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, marriage certificates, death certificates, property deeds and land titles.

A birth certificate is a key document in most countries to prove your age and who you are. Birth certificates are one of a range of documents that can give you your legal identity.

Some countries register marriage formally and some recognise ‘common-law’ marriage, which means that where a couple live together and have a sexual relationship they are considered legally married, even if they do not have a piece of paper to prove it. In some countries, religious leaders or elders issue marriage documents and in others, it is the state.

Procedures for death registration are often very strict, requiring a post-mortem and/or an inquiry and registration at the place of death. When there is civil war or natural disasters this can be very problematic, especially if people are missing and their death is not confirmed. It’s important to remember also that in some cultures a death certificate is not just a piece of paper – it can be an important step in the grieving process and a pre-requisite for re-marriage.

Marriage and death certificates are important documents in relation to housing, land and property rights, especially to facilitate inheritance by widows and orphaned children. Land and other kinds of property documents are sometimes required as a pre-requisite for accessing relief aid, even though they may have been lost, destroyed or may never have been issued, or issued only in the name of the male head of the household. Due to the circumstances of flight, refugees and internally displaced persons frequently do not possess documentary evidence of their rights to their original homes. This should in no circumstances be allowed to limit their right to restitution or compensation.

When collecting data about civil documentation, Camp Management Agencies need to ask some key questions:

  • Have people lost their documents or were they never registered in the first place? It is important to know because the procedures for reissuance are likely to be quite different than for new registrations.
  • Where did the birth, marriage or death take place? Camp Management Agencies tend to focus on births, deaths and marriages after arrival at the camp. It is often the case that people have been moving for many days, weeks, months and even years before they arrive. Babies may have been born and people may have died or married en route without any chance to register. These people should also be assisted.
  • If people have lost their documents, knowing where they registered will be important, especially in countries where records are not centralised. Document numbers (if people can remember) and key data such as full names and dates are always very useful and sometimes critical.


Housing Land and Property Documentation

Camp Management Agencies will need to identify such different circumstances as when:

  • displaced persons may never have had property
  • displaced persons may not be able to access what property they have
  • ownership is unclear as families have expanded or split and division of the land becomes an issue
  • death of an owner may have left dependents without clear claim to the land
  • people may have settled on the land knowing it is not theirs but have nowhere else to go
  • there are competing claims, including by the state or local or foreign enterprises.


It is crucial for a Camp Management Agency to advocate for the development of appropriate systems to register land titles not contained in official cadastres, such as the land of indigenous peoples and rights of possession of collectively held land.

Damage or destruction of housing belonging to refugees or displaced persons, particularly when this occurs in connection with crimes such as ethnic cleansing, is often carried out in conjunction with the confiscation or destruction of cadastral and other official records giving proof of ownership and residence rights. In many conflict situations, housing and property records are consciously destroyed or confiscated by one of the warring parties with the aim of extinguishing the rights of members of another group.


Integrate a Protection Perspective in All Activities in Camp

A Camp Management Agency should seek to ensure protection mainstreaming by integrating a protection perspective across all sectors and activities in the camp. Mainstreaming protection means applying a protection lens in the assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of activities. For example:

  • Planning distribution would need to incorporate a focus on groups unable to come to the distribution centre.
  • Monitoring a water, sanitation and hygiene programme might entail a focus on safety and security when using latrines at night.
  • An education project might evaluate the impact of education for girls who in some places may not have been enrolled in school.


Protection in Action


Voice From the Field - Protection By Presence

"In a refugee camp in Burundi, I soon realised that only men, both young and old, came to the office with their problems, wishes or concerns. Thinking that women should have no problem approaching me (a female camp manager), I wondered why this was happening. As I daily made at least two walking tours of the camp, I understood that one of the explanatory factors was that the women were busy – too busy to come and see us, forever cooking, washing and looking after smaller children around their hut. Our daily trips became a tool to reach busy women. Walking around enables camp management staff to ‘feel’ the atmosphere, to listen and learn, to make oneself available and reachable for those who don’t dare or don’t have time to come to your office. There is also the visibility factor the refugees feel that we are interested, we get to know people, where they live, that babies grow… This is protection by presence!”


It can be challenging for the Camp Management Agency and protection actors to identify risks and needs and orientate their actions and approaches. To facilitate this work, there are at least three tools that can be used to:

  • analyse protection risks in the camp
  • map present protection actors
  • identify spheres of action where protection activities can be set in to meet the identified risks and needs.

Risk Analysis Tool

What are the risks faced by the camp population? The risk analysis tool relates threats to potential victims’ vulnerabilities and capacities and illustrates which threat can be reduced by strengthening capacities. Adapted to a camp context, the components of a risk analysis are to ask:

  • What are the threats? The threat is the part of the problem related directly to the behaviour of the perpetrator or the nature of the danger, motivations for hurting individuals, a cost-benefit analysis of what the perpetrator gets out of it, and attitudes that help promote or dissuade a violation.
  • What are the vulnerabilities? These are closely linked to the identity and actions of the victim(s). Strategies that reduce vulnerabilities often remove potential victims from sources of risk or seek to change their behaviour to reduce provocation.
  • What are the coping strategies that individuals may already have to reduce their threats and vulnerabilities, and that might be enhanced?

A well-known example involves harassment of women by unidentified perpetrators when they move out of the camp to collect firewood. Drawing a list of all realistic measures to reduce the threat level, reduce the vulnerability and increase the capacities of the women might help the Camp Management Agency and protection actors to analyse the problem and focus responses. The exercise can be run also directly with the groups at risk. Findings can be used for advocacy with national authorities Cluster/Sector Lead Agency in cases where the behaviour of the perpetrator must be addressed at a higher level, or if there is need for more protection actors in the camps to respond to identified needs and risks.

Actor Mapping Tool

When risks, as well as threats, vulnerabilities, capacities and related protection needs and activities are partly identified, the actor mapping tool can be used to identify the nature of key actors around a specific protection issue.

The process has six steps:

  • Step 1: Identify a specific protection problem. Here the Camp Management Agency may choose to work on an already identified protection problem, for example threats to women fetching fire-wood.
  • Step 2: Identify the central key actors/stakeholders who relate to this particular protection problem.
  • Step 3: Analyse central actors: Are they victims or perpetrators? What is their goal? What do they need?
  • Step 4: Analyse relationships: What are the power relationships between these actors? Who needs who? For what reason? Who supports who? Why? Where are points of inervention?
  • Step 5: Expand the map: add more actors and relationships, namely people who can influence, or are influenced by a given problem. Why are they important? Do they have power? Can they influence the problem or other actors? What are their most relevant relationships? Note: Try to be as specific as possible when analysing relationships. For example: instead of identifying a broad entity such as the state, focus on a particular ministry or agency.
  • Step 6: Add yourself to the picture: think of the impact you could have on each actor and relationship.

Egg Model - Spheres of Protection Activities, Prevention and Responses

The egg model is a tool that can be used to identify different responses to violations and abuses as well as different protection activities.

Chapter 8: Egg Model


The model acknowledges and values short, medium and longer-term approaches to protection. It illustrates that different kinds of programming are not sequential, but often occur simultaneously. If the model is read from left to right:

  • Responsive: immediate response actions to stop, prevent or alleviate the effects of the violation and over time prevent new violations
  • Remedial: actions to restore normality and assist and support survivors
  • Environment-building: actions to strengthen protection by working on laws, politics and attitudes in order to promote full respect for the right of the individual.

The actions are dynamic, each action has preventive impacts in all three spheres. As such, risks and threats would be reduced. In a camp, related activities to these three spheres could be:

  • Responsive: health treatment for injuries, psychosocial support, incident referral and response system, including law enforcement
  • Remedial: health-checks and therapy, support to follow up cases with the judicial system, support in relation to livelihoods and employment and participation in camp activities and committees
  • Environment-building: monitoring and evaluation of the referral/response system and of safety and security in and around the camp; ensuring justice systems are functioning; capacity building of security forces, staff, camp leadership and committee-members; setting up of a camp governance system; community mobilisation and participation in camp activities and decision-making; education for children and adolescents; sensitisation of the camp population; information dissemination; service provision; building relations with the host community; working for durable solutions and encouragement of cultural activities.

A comprehensive use of the risk analysis tool, the actor mapping and the egg model depends on context, time and resources. Inclusion of the camp population is essential, together with engagement of the Camp Management Agency and protection actors. Remember that a constant presence and availability of staff in camps are essential to ensure the protection of the camp population.