This article proposes and sketches a new international agreement to address the
crucial human rights and international security issues posed by mass migration.
Currently, the human rights of people fleeing violence are largely unprotected by
international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention protects only refugees: those
fleeing across borders due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of
race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social
group. The world’s other 46.3 million people displaced by violence have few
international legal protections. I argue that an international agreement that creates
an additional category of people who receive international protections, whom I
call “Displaced Persons,” is necessary to foster human rights, further state
interests, and improve international security. A new Displaced Persons
Convention would provide the strongest legal protections for individuals fleeing
violence and states alike. If this proves impossible, second best would be a nonbinding
or partially binding international agreement, which could also shape state
practices and international norms. An agreement to protect Displaced Persons
would supplement, not supplant the 1951 Refugee Convention, which provides
critical protections for minorities and political dissidents that must not be diluted.
Policymakers should consider the provisions discussed in this article as they
prepare the UN Global Compact on Migration and similar agreements.