Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change

The Nansen Initiative
The Nansen Initiative
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Forced displacement related to disasters, including the adverse effects of climate change (disaster displacement), is a reality and among the biggest humanitarian challenges facing States and the international community in the 21st century. Every year, millions of people are displaced by disasters caused by natural hazards such as floods, tropical storms, earthquakes, landslides, droughts, salt water intrusion, glacial melting, glacial lake outburst floods, and melting permafrost. Between 2008 and 2014 a total of 184.4 million people were displaced by disasters, an average of 26.4 million people newly displaced each year. Of these, an annual average of 22.5 million people was displaced by weather- and climate-related hazards. Others have to move because of the effects of sea level rise, desertification or environmental degradation. Looking to the future, there is high agreement among scientists that climate change, in combination with other factors, is projected to increase displacement in the future. Disaster displacement creates humanitarian challenges, affects human rights, undermines development and may in some situations affect security. Most disaster displaced persons remain within their own country. However, some cross borders in order to reach safety and/or protection and assistance in another country. While comprehensive and systematic data collection and analysis on cross-border disaster-displacement is lacking, based on available data, Africa along with Central and South America, in particular have seen the largest number of incidences of cross-border disasterdisplacement. The Nansen Initiative has identified at least 50 countries that in recent decades have received or refrained from returning people in the aftermath of disasters, in particular those caused by tropical storms, flooding, drought, tsunamis, and earthquakes. An analysis of the law, relevant institutions and operational responses pertinent to the protection and assistance of cross-border disaster-displaced persons reveals a general lack of preparedness leading to ad hoc responses in most cases. Disaster displacement is multi-causal with climate change being an important, but not the only factor. Population growth, underdevelopment, weak governance, armed conflict, violence, as well as poor urban planning in rapidly expanding cities, are important factors in disaster displacement as they further weaken resilience and exacerbate the impacts of natural hazards, environmental degradation and climate change.