Populations at Risk: The Problems Facing Internally Displaced Persons Worldwide ~ Lesson Overview

October 5, 2011

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GRADES: 9-12


TIME ALLOTMENT: Three to four 45-minute class periods



Tens of millions of people worldwide are classified as “internally displaced,” meaning that they are living in their native countries but have been forced to relocate from their homes due to violence, conflict, or violations of their human rights.  In this lesson, students will use video segments from the PBS series Women, War and Peace as well as information from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the United Nations to learn more about internally displaced populations existing in nations and territories today, the types of threats and discrimination they face, and what can be done to help their situations.



Students will be able to:

  • Define “internally displaced person” and describe internal displacement situations worldwide;
  • Explain the discrimination, threats, and internal displacement concerns facing the Afro-Colombian population;
  • Analyze and utilize documents to present an overview of internally displaced populations in specific countries and territories;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of “durable solutions” for internally displaced persons.



New York State Standards:

Standard SS2: World History

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.

  • Key Idea SS2.3: World History: Study of the major social, political, cultural, and religious developments in world history involves learning about the important roles and contributions of individuals and groups.

Academic Level SS2.C.3: Commencement

  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.3A: Students analyze the roles and contributions of individuals and groups to social, political, economic, cultural, and religious practices and activities.
  • Key Idea SS2.4: World History: The skills of historical analysis include the ability to investigate differing and competing interpretations of the theories of history, hypothesize about why interpretations change over time, explain the importance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time.

Academic Level SS2.C.3: Commencement

  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.4A: Students identify historical problems, pose analytical questions or hypotheses, research analytical questions or test hypotheses, formulate conclusions or generalizations, raise new questions or issues for further investigation.
  • Performance Indicator SS2.C.4B: Students interpret and analyze documents and artifacts related to significant developments and events in world history.


National Standards:

  • World History/Era 9/Standard 2A: The student understands how population explosion and environmental change have altered conditions of life around the world.

Describe the global proliferation of cities and the rise of the megalopolis and assess the impact of urbanization on family life, standards of living, class relations, and ethnic identity.

  • World History/Era 9/Standard 3A: The student understands major global trends since World War II.

Analyze causes of economic imbalances and social inequalities among the world’s peoples and assess efforts made to close these gaps.



Women, War & Peace: Episode 4: “The War We Are Living,” selected segments


Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.


Clip 1: “Cauca’s Most Valuable Resources”

Afro-Colombian communities depend on natural resources, especially gold mines, but the Colombian government doesn’t always protect their land rights.


Clip 2: “Legal Struggles”

The Colombian Government distributes mining permits without consulting community councils, and thousands of Afro-Colombians are in danger of losing their homes.


Clip 3: “Cycle of Violence”

Community leaders face threats from military groups as they are trying to protect their homes.


Clip 4: “Return to the Land?”

Even though the new Colombian president vows to return lands to the displaced, the citizens of La Toma still face eviction.


Clip 5: “The Cost of Human Rights”

Clemencia Carabali meets with officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss the human rights violations against Afro-Colombian communities.




Global Database – Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement

This document, used by the United Nations, provides a framework for dealing with internally displaced populations.


Internal Displacement Monitoring Center: 2010 Global Overview of Trends and Development

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, established by the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the leading organization monitoring conflict-based internal displacement worldwide.


Law 70 Campaign

This page summarized Colombia’s Law 70, which was created to protect the property rights of Afro-Colombians.


IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Quick Reference Guide

This guide, an excerpt from a longer document, provides a brief overview of developing durable solutions for internally displaced persons and populations.


For additional information on internally displaced persons, humanitarian aid efforts to internally displaced populations, and human rights, students may wish to visit the following websites:

UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency

This website from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides information about what the agency does, where they work, and who they help.


International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian assistance for people affected by conflict and armed violence worldwide.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This document represents all of the basic rights to which human beings are inherently entitled.  Member nations of the United Nations are expected to provide these rights to their citizens.



For the class:

  • Computer with internet access, projection screen, and speakers

For each pair or group of 3-4 students:

  • Computer with internet access
  • Internally Displaced Populations Handout (download here)

For each student:

  • A copy of the IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Quick Reference Guide


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:


Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.


Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer(s) or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s internet connection.


Bookmark all websites which you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.


If desired, make enough copies of the “Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement” for each student.  Be sure to use the English version of the text as it is the original and authoritative edition.  (Click on the “English” link, then on the next page click on the link about halfway down the page that says “Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,” then on the next page scroll down and click on the link that says “English.”)


Make enough copies of the IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Quick Reference Guide for each student. Print only pages 3 and 4 of the PDF (pages iii and iv of the document), ideally on both sides of one sheet of paper.


For the Culminating Activity, you may wish to provide the following links to students to help them find the appropriate personnel to direct their letters:


Proceed to Lesson Activities