Sunday, March 19, 2017

Interview: preparing for climate and disaster migration

[Open Democracy] As sea levels rise, lands dry out, and disasters linked to natural hazards become more common, more and more people are going to be forced to move. Are we prepared?
Atle Solberg: My name is Atle Solberg, I work for the Platform on Disaster Displacement. The objective of the Platform on Disaster Displacement is to follow-up on the work started by the Nansen Initiative, and to implement the recommendations of the Protection Agenda – a toolbox to better prevent and prepare for displacement and to respond to situations when people are forced to find refuge, within their own country or across the borders.
Cameron Thibos (oD): What do we mean by climate and disaster forced migration and displacement? How does that distinguish between other types of forced migrants?
Atle: Within the climate change negotiations they have talked about three types of human mobility that may be caused by or linked to climate change. One is migration, which is predominantly voluntary. There are also examples of displacement, which are predominantly forced. And then you have planned relocation.
That is one way of looking at it. We talk about disaster displacement, and by that we are talking about people who are forced or obliged to flee because of disasters caused by natural hazards. These could be hurricanes or tropical storms, but there is also the slow onset of events like rising sea levels or desertification. When we refer to disaster, we are talking about disasters caused by natural hazards: geophysical, metrological, or climatological. We are not talking about man-made disasters, or those that may be linked to conflict.
Cameron: How do the protection needs differ for those displaced by natural disasters and climate change, as opposed to other types of forced migrants – for example refugees of war?
Atle: In general terms, everyone who is forcibly displaced would normally have immediate and specific protection needs linked to their displacement. Those will often be similar, and in that sense they don't always differ. People forcibly displaced will very often be separated from their family, and they may have lost their house or belongings. People may be injured and in need of medical assistance.
Some categories of people are more vulnerable than others in displacement, such as women and children, and people might not be able to return because their home is destroyed or it is too dangerous. So it's not that their protection needs are necessarily very different. They might be quite similar regardless of whether you are forcibly displaced because of skirmishes due to an armed conflict, because of an earthquake, or if you must be evacuated to avoid a hazard. Read More