Unit plan for ages 15-18 in Geography: Internally Displaced People


Thousands of people fled attacks on their villages and gathered under trees on the outskirts of Goz Beida, the main town in south eastern Chad.  ©  UNHCR/H.Caux



  • To understand clearly the legal difference between a refugee and an internally displaced person
  • To understand that not all people who flee violent conflict are able to cross international borders and claim international protection as refugees
  • To understand that individual governments and the international community must ensure that internally displaced people are protected and their human rights respected


  • To encourage in the students empathy for internally displaced people who have lost their homes and belongings and whose government will not or cannot provide them protection from conflict
  • To articulate the rights of internally displaced people and the corresponding responsibilities of governments and the international community to support those rights


  • To be able to identify the similarities and differences between refugees and internally displaced people
  • To practise sensitive enquiry and reasoning skills.
  • To think critically.

LESSON 1 and 2: Who are internally displaced persons? Where are they concentrated?

Who are internally displaced people?

Where are the major concentrations of internally displaced people around the world?

Why do they become displaced?
Reinforcement of students' understanding of refugees.

Students are asked for their impressions of why, when persecuted or in danger, hundreds of thousands of people sometimes do not flee across borders, i.e. to think of reasons why these people do not become refugees.

Map work
Students examine the annotated map to see that regions afflicted with violent conflict produce internally displaced people.

Discussion of the root causes of internal displacement, starting from descriptions from the maps.

During the 'Day of Documentation' in Ciudad Bolivar, UNHCR's Mobile Registration Unit helped the local internally displaced people apply for identification cards. Identity documents are key to gaining access to state humanitarian aid, such as health care, education and credit and bank loans.  © UNHCR/P.Smith

Background reading for teachers

UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium, (Oxford, OUP, 2006), Chapter 7: Internally displaced persons, pp. 153-175

The whole of Refugees magazine issue no. 141 [PDF, 1,1Mb] is devoted to the topic of internally displaced people.

Students' resources

The whole of "The World's Internally Displaced People" [PDF, 170Kb] Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 16-17

LESSONS 3-4: Internal conflict and displacement around the world

Internal conflict and displacement around the world.

The great variety of circumstances under which internal displacement occurs.

Differences between refugees and IDPs.

Implications of the status of IDPs.
Teacher lecture

based on "The biggest failure of the international community" [PDF, 952Kb], Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 2-19.

Review and application
Questioning and discussion to encourage students to think deeply about the status of IDPs.

A UNHCR-organized group encourages internally displaced people and returnees to discuss gender-based violence in Aruni.  © UNHCR/R.Chalasani

Ray Wilkinson, "The biggest failure of the international community" [PDF, 952Kb], Refugees, no. 141, 2005, pp. 2-19.

Violent conflict on both sides of the Chad/Sudan border has displaced tens of thousands of people. The Chad home page provides links to information about this particular humanitarian crisis where refugees and IDPs are found on both sides of an international border.

"Darfur: the challenge of protecting the internally displaced", UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium, (Oxford, OUP, 2006), pp. 162-163