Monday, April 22, 2013

Lifeline to “climate refugees”?

The idea that millions of people might be forced to relocate because of extreme natural events has caused concern in developed countries

(IRIN • UN) The international community has steadfastly dodged the issue of recognition and protection for “climate refugees” - people forced to relocate to another country as a result of the risks and hazards of a changing climate. Now, the first global initiative to address humanitarian options is underway, with discussions focusing on the Pacific Ocean states to take place soon.

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal displacement, international human rights legislation, and many national laws protect the rights of people displaced within their own countries as a result of natural disasters, but those prompted to move across borders have no protection and are particularly vulnerable.

"There are unclear mandates for [aid] agencies to respond to cross-border displacement, since no NGO or agency has responsibility for overseeing people displaced by natural disasters," said Walter Kaelin, a former representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and long-time advocate for people displaced directly as a result of extreme natural events.

Kaelin is also the envoy to the chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative, an intergovernmental effort named after polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees appointed by the League of Nations in 1921, who introduced the 'Nansen passport' for stateless people.

Rolf Vestvik, of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), says the lack of legal status inhibits agencies like his from raising money to help them. The NRC and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) are working to facilitate the Initiative's efforts, which started in early 2013.

Countries and agencies are wary of starting yet another, possibly lengthy, global process to deal with the legalities of assisting people displaced across international borders by natural disasters. 

"There is simply no appetite among states for a formal process right now, and the Nansen Initiative tries to build the necessary consensus on what needs to be done in an intergovernmental process," Kaelin told IRIN.

Even the 2010 Cancun conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the first to acknowledge the possibilities of "climate change-induced displacement", shied away from saying how the issue should be addressed ... Read the full story in IRIN│UN • Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

1 comment:

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