Who is Rob Piper? A Profile of the UN Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement
Rob Piper is an Australian national who has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as his Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement in May 2022. He is tasked with leading the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on internal displacement, which aims to prevent, reduce and resolve the plight of millions of people who are forced to flee their homes within their own countries due to conflict, violence, disasters or human rights violations.
Mr. Piper has more than 30 years of experience in international development, humanitarian response and peacebuilding at the UN. He has served in various senior positions, including as head of the UN Development Coordination Office, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He has also worked with UNFPA, UNDP and other UN entities in different regions and contexts.
As the Special Adviser, Mr. Piper leads a small team that works closely with other UN agencies, funds and programmes, as well as civil society, development partners, private sector and affected communities to advance solutions to internal displacement. He advocates for greater political commitment, investment and coordination to address the root causes and consequences of internal displacement, and to support the rights and needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities.
Mr. Piper believes that solutions to internal displacement are not only possible, but also necessary and urgent. He stresses that internal displacement is not only a humanitarian challenge, but also a development and peacebuilding opportunity. He calls for a whole-of-society approach that involves all stakeholders and sectors in finding durable solutions that respect the dignity, agency and aspirations of IDPs.
Mr. Piper’s work is particularly relevant and urgent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the vulnerabilities and challenges faced by IDPs and host communities. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for more investment in prevention, preparedness and resilience to reduce the risk of future displacement crises.
According to the latest data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), there were 55 million IDPs across the world at the end of 2020, 48 million as a result of conflict and violence, and 7 million as a result of disasters. In 2020 alone, conflict and disasters triggered 40.5 million new internal displacements across 149 countries and territories. More than half of these displacements were caused by disasters, mostly weather-related hazards such as storms and floods.
Internal displacement has significant social and economic impacts on individuals, communities and countries. More than 23 million people under the age of 18 were internally displaced worldwide, with significant impacts on their education. The global cost of one year of displacement was estimated at $20.5 billion in 2020, which includes the cost of providing IDPs with support for their housing, education, health and security, and accounts for their loss of income.
Mr. Piper stresses that addressing internal displacement is not only a moral duty, but also a smart investment that can yield multiple benefits for peace, development and human rights. He urges all stakeholders to join forces and take action to implement the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on internal displacement, which provides a roadmap for achieving solutions by 2030.