Climate Change, Displacement and Community Relocation: Lessons from Alaska

Norwegian Refugee Council
Norwegian Refugee Council
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United States of America
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Displacement associated with disasters and climate change is one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our times. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, sudden-onset disasters displace an average of 25.4 million people a year. That's equivalent of someone forced to flee their home every second. An unknown number of people are also displaced by slow-onset disasters such as drought and sea level rise, and climate change is expected to cause more frequent and intense extreme weather events in the coming decades, which will further heighten the risk of displacement.

The pace of climate change is faster and its impacts more severe in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world. What happens in the Arctic has major implications for the planet as a whole, and not least for Alaska, where indigenous communities are planning to relocate entire coastal villages inland to protect their lives and preserve their lifestyles and culture. Their experience is a concrete example of preventive planned relocation, and as such it provides an opportunity to understand the challenges and advantages inherent in such undertakings, and so to better prepare for them. This report will help to inform governments and communities in other regions facing similar protection concerns, particularly those with indigenous communities at risk of displacement. 

The work with communities in Alaska will also provide vital input for global policies and other regional and national processes that aim to prevent, reduce or at least mitigate displacement associated with disasters and the adverse effects of climate change. These include the Platform on Disaster Displacement, which was established to implement the Nansen Initiative’s protection agenda on cross-border disaster displacement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change.