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Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement Bulletin
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Volume 189 Number 1 - Friday, 10 May 2011
SUMMARY OF THE NANSEN CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISPLACEMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY
6-7 JUNE 2011

The Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century convened in Oslo, Norway, from Monday, 6 to Tuesday, 7 June 2011. The conference was hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

More than 200 participants from 40 countries, representing governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, research institutions, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector attended the conference. The meeting focused on: sharing experiences on vulnerability, resilience and capacity for adaptation of communities in areas prone to disaster due to climate change, as well as on the protection of displaced people; and promoting action to help prevent or manage displacement. Given recent flooding events in Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, tropical storms in the Philippines, and the resulting human displacement, the meeting’s focus on climate change-induced migration and displacement was considered by many participants to be very timely.

The two-day conference consisted of six sessions, in addition to three breakout parallel sessions and one side-event. Participants took part in interactive sessions focusing on, inter alia: climate change-related drivers of displacement; country case studies covering the geographic and thematic diversity of climate change and displacement; resilience building and climate change adaptation, including disaster risk reduction (DRR), disaster preparedness and early warning; response and protection strategies, including filling the gaps in the protection regime; and adapting humanitarian disaster response to climate-induced displacement.

The conference sought to provide a meeting point between communities that focus on climate change and those that are concerned with humanitarian trends and challenges, and arrived at a set of draft principles to guide responses to challenges posed by the impacts of climate change. Aimed at policy makers, stakeholders and humanitarian actors, the guiding principles are expected to feed into, inter alia, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees’ Ministerial meeting to be held in December 2011.

The conference was one of the main events of the Nansen-Amundsen Anniversary 2011, commemorating two anniversaries with great significance for Norway: 150 years since the birth of Fridtjof Nansen, polar explorer, scientist, and diplomat; and 100 years since Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to reach the South Pole.

This report provides a brief history of climate change and human displacement and summarizes the conference’s sessions in chronological order, as well as the outcome of the conference.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN DISPLACEMENT

Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious threats to sustainable development, with adverse impacts expected on the environment, human health, food security, economic activity, natural resources and physical infrastructure. Global climate varies naturally, but scientists agree that rising concentrations of anthropogenically-produced greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere are leading to changes in the climate. It is widely acknowledged that climate change will, over the short- and long-term, lead to an increase in the severity of droughts, land degradation, desertification, salinization, riverbank and coastal erosion, sea-level rise and the intensity of floods, tropical cyclones and other geophysical events. This in turn will negatively affect crop yields and food production, water supplies, livelihoods and human settlements.

An impact of particular concern is the potential for human displacement and migration. Moreover, with respect to humanitarian consequences and challenges, it is projected that climate change and the increasing frequency of natural disasters will trigger larger and more complex movements of people, including large-scale displacement of people, both within and across borders, and has the potential to render some people stateless. The implications for human welfare and security, and for strategies for adaptation, DRR, humanitarian aid and protection of displaced people, could be far-reaching.

While environmental migration is not officially recognized, the international community is increasingly acknowledging the fact that environmental degradation and climate change could potentially result in population displacement on a scale the world is currently ill equipped to address in an effective manner. According to the International Organization on Migration (IOM), the number of persons forced to move due to climate change and environmental degradation by 2050 is forecasted to vary by a factor of 40 (between 25 million and 1 billion) and largely depends on which climate scenario unfolds. The world’s poorest and most crisis-prone countries will be disproportionately affected, with the level of vulnerability, exposure to risk and capacities of people being some determining factors leading to migration.

Given the limited consensus on the present role of environmental change, including climate change, as a driving force for displacement, many argue that a closer dialogue between climate change scientists, humanitarian actors and policy makers is essential for initiating an informed policy discussion on how to deal with human displacement in the context of a changing climate.

FIRST INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON COMMUNITY-BASED ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE: The first international workshop on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA) to climate change took place from 16-18 January 2005, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Jointly organized by the International Institute on Environment and Development, RING Alliance, the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and the World Conservation Union, the workshop participants discussed possible impacts of climate change on local communities living in vulnerable areas and how to enable them to adapt to climate change in the future.

SECOND INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON CBA TO CLIMATE CHANGE: The second workshop on CBA was held from 24-28 February 2007, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and consisted of three days of technical sessions and interactive discussions that addressed agriculture, drought, food security, extreme events, health, mainstreaming and partnership, and communication and knowledge. The workshop resulted in the formation of a CBA Network. IISD RS coverage of the meeting can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/sdban/

CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENT AND MIGRATION ALLIANCE: In April 2008, the Climate Change, Environment and Migration Alliance (CCEMA) was initiated by the UN Environment Programme, the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security, and the IOM and other international organizations in response to the growing realization about the complex interdependencies among climate change, environmental degradation and migration. CCEMA is a multi-stakeholder global partnership aiming to bring together actors representing a range of perspectives including environment, migration, development and humanitarian assistance. The Alliance also seeks to serve as a catalyst for new projects and ideas related to environmental-driven migration in order to advance an integrated and coordinated approach to the issue.

THIRD INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON CBA TO CLIMATE CHANGE: The third workshop on CBA convened from 18-24 February 2009, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with technical sessions addressing: methods and tools in designing CBA; adaptation measures and practices related to agriculture; women, education and awareness for adaptation; advancing adaptation through communication for development; mainstreaming and partnership for adaptation; disaster and climate change; and urban adaptation. Participants agreed to establish the Global Initiative on Community Based Adaptation (GICBA) to Climate Change, a network seeking to support CBA-related activities by generating and sharing relevant knowledge. IISD RS coverage of the meeting can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/sdcab/

SPECIAL SUMMIT ON REFUGEES, RETURNEES AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS IN AFRICA: Organized by the African Union (AU), the Special Summit on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa was held from 22-23 October 2009, in Kampala, Uganda. At the Summit, the Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa (Kampala Convention) was adopted. The Kampala Convention is the first legally binding regional instrument in the world to impose the obligation to protect and assist IDPs on states. However, to enter into force and become legally binding, the Convention has to be ratified by 15 AU member states. To date, the Convention has been signed by 31 of 53 member states and ratified by seven.

FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CBA TO CLIMATE CHANGE: This conference was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 21-27 February 2010. Technical sessions and ad hoc working groups discussed, inter alia: strengthening institutions; water; building adaptive capacity; insurance and microfinance; policy linkages; agriculture; urban areas; managing and communicating knowledge; scaling up and replicating best practice; vulnerable groups; role of ecosystems in adaptation; DRR; and funding. Participants also agreed to further develop the GICBA. IISD RS coverage of the meeting can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/climate/cba4

UN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE IN CANCÚN 2011: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) discussions on climate-induced migration between 2007 and 2010 resulted in the adoption of the Cancún Adaptation Framework at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, which took place from 27 November to 10 December 2011. Among other things, the Cancun Adaptation Framework invites all parties to undertake adaptation action, including “measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation related to national, regional and international climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” In addition, several side events during the conference addressed the issue of climate change, migration and displacement, focusing on: national and sub-national level policy and programme implementation, including assistance in the development of policies on displacement and climate change; advocacy on displacement; dissemination of tools that specifically target vulnerable communities; rights for climate-induced forced migrants; and proactive approaches for climate change and adaptation policy and practice. IISD RS coverage of the meetings can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop16/

UNHCR ROUNDTABLE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISPLACEMENT: UNHCR’s expert roundtable was held in Bellagio, Italy, from 22-25 February 2011. Some of the conclusions stemming from this event include: displacement is likely to be a significant consequence of global climate change processes of both a rapid and slow-onset nature; responses to climate-related displacement need to be guided by the fundamental principles of humanity, human dignity, human rights and international cooperation; a need to develop a global guiding framework or instrument to apply to situations of external displacement; and avoiding the terms “climate refugee” and “environmental refugee” as they are inaccurate and misleading.

DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION IN IOM’S RESPONSE TO ENVIRONMENTAL MIGRATION: In March 2011, the IOM issued a publication entitled: “DRR and Climate Change Adaptation in IOM’s Response to Environmental Migration,” which presents IOM’s engagement in building the resilience of countries and communities affected by changing climate, environmental hazards and structural factors of vulnerability to foster sustainable development while making migration a choice. The publication describes the migration perspective in disaster risk management, DRR, and climate change adaptation.

ROUNDTABLE ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISPLACEMENT: Organized by the Brookings Institution, this roundtable convened on 15 March 2011 in Washington, DC, US, aiming to share information on current and planned research on climate change and displacement. Themes that emerged during the discussion include: the difficulty of ascertaining causality; uncertainty about how to deal with slow-onset disasters and about their relationship to climate change; the need to consider how the issue of livelihoods can be addressed more purposefully through migration; the importance of assessing how existing knowledge can be used; and the need to identify which governments are supporting good models.

FIFTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CBA TO CLIMATE CHANGE: This conference convened in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 28-31 March 2011, under the theme “Scaling Up: Beyond Pilots,” focusing on sharing and consolidating the latest developments in CBA planning and practice in different sectors and countries among practitioners, policy makers, researchers, funders and the communities at risk. Technical sessions covered topics such as: agriculture, local resilience and climate prediction services; communicating knowledge about CBA; bridging local, sub-national and national levels in adaptation; supporting adaptive capacity; CBA tools and toolkits; and synergies between DRR, ecosystems, wider development projects and CBA. IISD RS coverage of the meeting can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/climate/cba5/

INTERSESSIONAL WORKSHOP ON CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION AND MIGRATION: The IOM workshop took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 29-30 March 2011, as part of IOM’s annual International Dialogue on Migration, which in 2011 was dedicated to the theme “The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change.” The workshop identified some of the main areas in which governments and institutions may need to reinforce their capacities to manage the complex interactions between climate change and environmental degradation and human mobility; including, among others: building knowledge and improving data collection; strengthening policy, institutional, administrative and legal frameworks; and reinforcing operational and technical capacities.

THIRD SESSION OF THE GLOBAL PLATFORM FOR DRR: This conference convened from 8-12 May 2011, in Geneva, Switzerland, under the theme “Invest Today for a Safer Tomorrow - Increased Investment in Local Action,” with participants discussing issues such as reconstruction and recovery, the economics of disaster risk reduction, and synergies with the international climate change and development agenda. Conclusions from the session included the need for: increasing dedicated budget allocations for DRR; developing standards and indicators for measuring the effectiveness DRR at all levels; promoting mechanisms to integrate climate change adaptation and DRR into development planning; increasing investment in DRR at the local level; and raising public awareness of disaster risks. IISD RS coverage of the meeting can be found at: http://www.iisd.ca/ymb/gpdrr/2011/

REPORT OF THE NANSEN CONFERENCE

OPENING SESSION

On Monday morning, Chair Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), opened the conference, welcoming participants and introducing Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Norway, Mette-Marit. Crown Princess Mette-Marit described the legacy of Fridtjof Nansen as a scientist, humanitarian, internationalist and the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and underlined his significant efforts in international relief work. Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway, noted the need to establish a common set of principles that underpin action to prevent displacement based on: robust understanding of the implications of climate change; shared responsibility; and utilizing opportunities provided in existing international law.

Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and International Development, Norway, said that if global greenhouse gas emissions are not stabilized to below the 2 degrees Celsius target, climate change could risk inducing human displacement on an unprecedented scale. To ensure the protection of people displaced by climate change, he favored effective usage of existing institutions, such as the Office of the UNHCR and the World Bank. Underscoring that action must be aimed toward prevention, he called for an effective global climate change regime and building a global weather forecast system. Antonio Guterres, UNHCR, underscored that climate change has the greatest multiplier effect on human mobility and security. He said UNHCR’s upcoming ministerial meeting would welcome the adoption by the Nansen Conference of a global set of guiding principles for the protection of displaced people due to natural disasters and climate change.

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), announced a recently completed IPCC report linking climate change with extreme natural events and addressing what can be done to adapt to such events. Noting that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world, he reiterated that global warming will not occur uniformly across the globe. He also stressed the importance of improving the early-warning infrastructure of natural disasters to help evacuate populations in developing countries.

CLIMATE CHANGE RELATED DRIVERS OF DISPLACEMENT

Harald Dovland, former Head of the Norwegian Delegation to the Climate Change Negotiations and vice-chair of the conference introduced this session. James Hansen, Head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, discussed the effects of warming temperatures, highlighting submerged coastal cities by rising sea level, extinction of millions of species, and depletion of fresh water reserves. He labeled governments’ inaction to address climate change as “intergenerational injustice,” citing irreversible effects, including decreased access to freshwater, expanding subtropics and coastal flooding. Jay Gulledge, Director for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, discussed the importance of scientifically uncertain information, saying that information exists to calculate risks and inform risk management strategies. He noted that mitigation reduces uncertainty and suggested that a contingency plan to address underestimated climate sensitivity would be useful. François Gemenne, Research Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, described climate-induced displacement in a world where temperatures have increased by 4 degree Celsius, emphasizing the importance to move away from a deterministic perspective in order to adopt the right policy measures, and he noted the key challenge to link the policy areas of migration and adaptation.

SIDE-EVENT

On Monday midday, the report entitled “Displacement due to Natural Hazard-induced disasters – Global Estimates for 2009 and 2010” was launched by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) at a side-event. Elisabeth Rasmusson, Secretary General, NRC, said more than 42 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters in 2010, calling for greater cooperation between the fields of humanitarian action, DRR, climate change adaptation and development.

PARALLEL SESSIONS PRESENTING CASE STUDIES

On Monday afternoon, participants met in three parallel sessions presenting case studies spanning the geographical and thematic diversity of climate change and displacement.

Parallel A: Koko Warner, Head of the Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability and Adaptation Section, UN University - Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), moderated this parallel session. Patricia Romero-Lankao, Head of the Resilient and Sustainable Cities theme at the Science and Applications Program, National Center for Atmospheric Research, discussed patterns and drivers of migration in Mexico stressing that migration is about development as well as about climate change. She highlighted climate change events negatively affecting rural economies resulting in increased migration to urban areas, where more job opportunities exist. Romero-Lankao also noted circular migration as a common dynamic, citing that 32% of Mexicans return to their home area. François Gemenne said that island states are similar to laboratories, as they are the first witnesses and victims of climate change, and noted that islands matter to the international community as their disappearance would be an indicator of climate change. He said many people from Tuvalu are moving off the island as a risk-reduction strategy, since they are concerned about future adaptation activities.

Rajendra Pachauri spoke on climate change impacts and adaptation needs in Africa. He said vulnerabilities include: human health; food and economic security; and water resources, citing that by 2020, 75 to 250 million people will experience water stress due to climate change. Pachauri identified key needs such as: a thorough examination of future vulnerabilities and impacts to climate change; adaptation strategies to increase adaptive capacities over the long term; and effective and powerful climate change modeling tools. Aqqaluk Lynge, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, discussed impacts of climate change on Inuit Nunaat. Lynge noted that no adaptation program currently exists for the Arctic indigenous peoples due to denial by the regional and national governments. He lamented that warming waters are forcing communities to exchange traditional forms of income for an offshore oil and gas economy.

In the ensuing discussion, participants focused on: proper discourse and adaptation terminology; the importance of bringing together and creating a partnership across all disciplines; and the consideration of climate change as not just an energy, security or trade issue, but as a development issue.

Parallel B: Jay Gulledge moderated this parallel session. Ida Inés Pedroso Herrera, Researcher, Department of Environmental Geology, Geophysics and Risks, La Habana, presented on climate change impacts and adaptation in Cuba. She said that vulnerability and risk assessments are important tools in the prevention and preparedness of natural disaster reduction. Singling out rising sea level as Cuba’s largest threat due to climate change, she mentioned the recently conducted assessments of coastal zone impact due to sea level rise for 2050 and 2100 as supporting tools for decision-making. 

Jörn Birkmann, Head of the Vulnerability Assessment, Risk Management and Adaptive Planning Section, UNU-EHS, highlighted resettlement initiatives as examples of climate change adaptation. He suggested that trends in vulnerability and environmental change may push social-ecological systems in some regions over a tipping point. Using a local case study of resettlement process in Phu Hiep, Viet Nam, Birkmann listed positive implications of resettlement such as living in a flood-protected area and negative implications such as chronic unemployment. He noted that resettlement projects often fail not because of inadequate inputs, but due to linear planning and lack of a micro and macro focus.

Laura Conley, Research Associate, and Michael Werz, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, presented on climate change, migration and security for a new 21st century foreign policy. They explained that the Obama Administration has changed US foreign policy to include issues of climate change, development, migration and security. They announced that their Center will publish a series of reports on complex crisis scenarios, which look at the nexus of climate change, migration and security to help steer the debate into a progressive direction. Atiq Rahman, Executive Director, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, presented on climate change impacts and responses in Bangladesh. He explained that Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts because of, inter alia, its frequent natural and man-made disasters, poor governance and weak institutions. He mentioned that in addition to establishing National Adaptation Programmes of Actions and Climate Change Strategy and Action Plans, governments should also undertake local adaptation plans.

In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed the role of the Center for American Progress in providing an analytical tool to address foreign and security policy challenges. Participants also considered proactive versus reactive examples of resettlement plans after tidal inundations, including their limitations. In response to one participant’s inquiry as to why a simple and harmonized approach to integrating climate change and development frameworks is lacking, Rahman acknowledged that such an approach is desirable but challenging to achieve.

Parallel C: Madeleen Helmer, Head of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, moderated this session. Michelle Yonetani, Senior Advisor, Natural Disasters, IDMC, and Cat Jones, Protection and Advocacy Advisor, NRC Pakistan, outlined the impacts of flood displacement on women in the Sindh Province of Pakistan, including: secondary displacement; limited access to assistance; and violence against displaced women. They recommended further strengthening responses in protecting and assisting women displaced by natural disasters. Oscar Alvarez Gila, Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, said migration in Ecuador is a customary coping strategy to adapt to environmental challenges and economic effects, noting that the 1997-1998 El Niño shifted the migration patterns from internal and temporary to international movements, with people most frequently moving to Spain.

Underlining the vicious cycle between migration and environmental deterioration, Tamer Afifi, Associate Academic Officer in the Environmental, Migration, Social Vulnerability and Adaptation Section, UNU-EHS, said women play an important role in restoring the environment. He cited factors influencing environment-induced migration in Niger including, among others: profession; land ownership; cultural issues; financial means; and alternative livelihoods. Vikram Kolmannskog, Independent Adviser, NRC, spoke on the links between conflict, disaster and displacement in the context of climate change in Somalia, underlining that traditional protection mechanisms are being challenged due to the conflict. He also highlighted the complex dynamics of human mobility.

The ensuing discussion focused on: the importance of participatory approaches; the key role of women; the multitude of factors leading to migration; the role of local governments in coordinating relief efforts; and the need to understand the local context and extend local-level programmes to international treaties. Moderator Helmer noted the challenges to establishing generic guidelines and moving the agenda forward, while honoring the specific circumstances of each case.

RESILIENCE BUILDING AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

climate change adaptation and DRR: Vice-chair Harald Dovland moderated this session on Monday afternoon. Atiq Rahman discussed climate-smart disaster risk management. He described linkages between climate change with development and poverty, noting how climate change increases natural disaster risks. Citing recent studies predicting a doubling of food price by 2030 and a global increase of undernourished people, he underscored the vulnerability of the poor to the impacts of climate change.

Walter Kälin, University of Bern and former Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, presented on human rights-based approach to resilience building. Making reference to a court decision by the European Court for Human Rights that found that the authorities failed to prevent a mudslide disaster in Budayeva in the South Caucuses, he said competent authorities have the obligation to enact and implement laws dealing with all aspects of DRR. He concluded by stressing that nature does not violate people’s right to life and security and that if appropriate measures are taken, the damages can be significantly reduced.

Addressing migration and displacement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) context, Koko Warner noted the significance of the migration and displacement provisions within the Cancun Adaptation Framework, serving both as a matrix and a call for action. Regarding ways forward, she emphasized the need to foster alternative adaptation approaches, promote DRR, and identify guiding principles and effective practices. She also stressed UNFCCC’s important role in catalyzing action on displacement and climate change adaptation.

Margareta Wahlström said disasters are man-made and we need to begin thinking about disasters as current concern rather than future risks. Bart Édes, Director of Poverty Reduction, Gender and Social Development Division, Asian Development Bank, called for improved data collection, modeling and analysis. Neil Buhne, Director of Geneva Liaison Office of the UN Development Programme’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, said resilience varies between countries because the global distribution of opportunities is unequal. Shahidul Haque, Director, Department of International Cooperation and Partnerships, International Organization on Migration, noted that discussions focused on addressing migration in the context of climate change, suggesting that discussions should focus on how migration can contribute to development.

In the ensuing discussion, participants tackled issues such as: how to repair and rebuild temporary and permanent migration locations; and guiding principles for planned and emergent relocations. After one participant explained why it may be difficult to convince certain communities to relocate, participants discussed how to improve programme approaches between donors, practitioners and vulnerable communities. Rahman said that “time is against us and that we must move quickly and increase our knowledge,” and suggested that a “Nansen Statement,” containing a rights-based approach to climate-induced migration, be decided upon.

Wahlström stressed the need to address at what cost people can continue living in disaster-affected areas. Noting the complex paradigm of factors that influence migration, she reiterated the importance of planning to better manage risks.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS AND EARLY WARNING: On Tuesday morning, Patricia Romero-Lankao moderated the second part of the session on resilience building and climate change adaptation.

Kristalina I. Georgieva, European Commissioner for Internal Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said fragility due to disasters is increasing, emphasizing the need to help the most vulnerable. She said food security is critical to avoid displacement in the first place, and noted the need for humanitarian assistance to focus on: supporting local farmers; ensuring proper infrastructure; increasing investments in resilience; and paying more attention to small-scale disasters. Jan Egeland, Director, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and Co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for Global Climate Services, outlined the global framework for climate services that aims to provide information to the most climate vulnerable, listing services such as: famine early warning systems; forecasts of fire risk and the extent of floods; and frost risk mapping. By helping us understand the nature, frequency and impacts of climatic hazards, he stressed that climate services are vital for improved decision making.

Madeleen Helmer described how to transition from early warning to early action in humanitarian responses. She noted that traditional knowledge about climate and agricultural practices from local communities complements the information provided by scientific organizations, including the IPCC. Noting that forecasts across timescales allow for improved disaster preparedness, Helmer underscored integration of forecast systems into humanitarian responses as a key low-hanging fruit. She concluded that lives lost, response time and costs are minimized when there is good communication between the forecast, climate change and humanitarian response communities. Highlighting the fragmentation and lack of communication between climate change and humanitarian communities, moderator Romero-Lankao called for an increased involvement of climate and social scientists in humanitarian responses. She also urged that affected local communities be provided with the right options and assets to take their own decisions following natural disasters.

Dao Xuan Hoc, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam, and Richard Choularton, Senior Policy Officer, Office for Climate Change and DRR, World Food Program, spoke on the importance of investing in early warning systems for DRR. Hoc listed lacking resources as a challenge to such systems. Choularton discussed translating early warning information into early action and questioned current assessment abilities, noting that more work is required to understand which information requires action or not. Oddvar Hesjedal, Executive Vice President and Head of People Development at Telenor Group, said mobile technology should be used to share early warning messages and educate on preventative measures.  

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed issues, including: translating information into action at all levels; transmitting early warning signs to target areas; and building capacity at the local level to promote action.

RESPONSE AND PROTECTION STRATEGIES

FILLING THE GAPS IN THE PROTECTION REGIME: Moderating the session, Roger Zetter, Director of the Refugee Study Centre, University of Oxford, said key issues to address include the extent to which the 1998 “Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement” is responsive to rapid-onset and slow-onset impacts, and trans-border protection. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced People, described the evolution of legal frameworks for the protection of internally displaced persons, noting that the 2009 Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa addresses displacement resulting from natural and climate change-linked disasters. He recommended that the issue of climate change-induced displacement be separated from the politics of climate change.

Volker Türk, Director, Division of International Protection, UNHCR, presented on the protection of environmentally displaced persons in existing protection regimes. Drawing a parallel to the nuclear disarmament legal process, he noted that addressing the legal aspects of climate change provides an example of intergenerational responsibility. Türk noted that refugee law and instruments apply in some instances to externally displaced people by sudden-onset disasters. He called on the political community to embrace global migration as a responsibility rather than a threat. Jane McAdam, University of New South Wales, outlined ways forward in addressing the protection gap of environmentally displaced persons. She said that the proposal of creating a new treaty for climate-displaced persons was based on assumptions, such as disaster and migration predictions that have not always occurred. Noting the lack of political will for a new treaty, McAdam said its implementation and enforcement is a greater challenge than its creation. She observed the desire by many potentially affected people from small island developing states to become active contributors rather than passive victims, highlighting the possibility of migration with dignity by providing employment opportunities in host countries. She advocated using a human rights-based approach and human dignity to respond to displaced persons.

Moderator Zetter suggested that challenges to displacement depend on building protection norms and rights into preparedness and response programs at the community level. Elisabeth Rasmusson encouraged states to reflect upon how they can fill protection gaps and make pledges to do so at December’s ministerial meeting. Rolf Einar Fife, Director General of Legal Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, suggested that international law should facilitate political action, and recognized the need for follow-up activities at all levels to ensure action. 

The ensuing discussion focused on: the role of international legal frameworks and various levels of politics to facilitate action; the problem with attributing relocating persons to specific disasters given that all weather events are influenced by climate change; and challenging current assumptions of development in context of migration, as sometimes development has contributed to further displacement.

Adapting humanitarian disaster response to climate-induced displacement: On Tuesday afternoon, Jan Egeland moderated this session that aimed to analyze capacity needs for humanitarian responses. Kelly David, Head, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Regional Office of Southern and Eastern Africa, presented on building appropriate humanitarian response capacities to climate-induced displacement. She noted that small and recurrent human migration is more damaging and attracts less funding and support than larger, more acute migration, and lamented the low priority given to long-term disaster reduction strategies. Advocating that humanitarian workers shift from bestowers of aid to supporters of capacity, she underscored the importance of incorporating disaster preparedness and response in development programming.

Tarsis Kabwegyere, Former Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Uganda, spoke on how to ensure disaster response capacities at the national level. To make responses more efficient, he noted that disaster preparedness and management has been integrated into budgeting and planning in Uganda. He called for increased community involvement and international cooperation to better handle disasters. Louis-Georges Arsenault, Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes, UN Children’s Fund, outlined the impacts of climate change on humanitarian response systems, explaining that as the number of emergencies increase, multidimensional responses by a strong alliance of actors will be required across to minimize disaster losses. He said education has been a successful measure to promote awareness and decrease risks, drawing attention to the importance of educating children who will bear the brunt of negative climate change impacts.

Katiuscia Fara, Senior Officer, Climate Change Adaptation, Community Preparedness and DRR, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, explained that DRR tools must be modified to address small-scale and urban displaced persons. She called for the development of partnerships with urban planners and architects. Amelia Kyazze, Save the Children UK, said climate change impacts have become mainstream in the humanitarian community. Stressing the need to better respond to unpredictable disasters, she called for further analysis of children as active participants in climate change adaptation and DRR.

In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed the role of municipalities and local plans of action to climate change adaptation. One participant stressed that the sum of slow-onset and rapid-onset natural disasters is not linear, while another inquired about political incentives that favor international aid to respond to rapid-onset disasters rather than national aid for DRR. Other interventions called for the principles stemming from the conference to focus on industrialized countries responsible for emitting greenhouse gases rather than on displaced persons. Other participants noted the importance of addressing underlying causes of climate change and natural disasters to redirect the development and economic path, pointing to the planet’s ecological limits.

Closing the session, moderator Egeland asked panelists to identify obstacles in addressing the effects of climate change within their own institutions. Responses included, inter alia: current financial structures and approach mechanisms; innovation being discouraged; an inability to focus on long-term issues due to short-term crises; and difficulties in gaining the interest of politicians and the public.

CLOSING SESSION

In the closing session on Tuesday afternoon, Chair Wahlström said we are currently managing a constant state of risk and therefore need to better understand these risks. She stressed the importance of building a common system that links the humanitarian, development and environmental communities, while at the same time ensuring better coordination between these actors. Wahlström suggested that the provisions on migration and displacement in the Cancún Adaptation Framework be used to operationalize the principle that displaced people need protection, and called for effective climate change mitigation, and further exploring issues arising from slow-onset disasters. She presented a set of draft principles stemming from deliberations during the conference aiming to guide responses to challenges posed by the impacts of climate change. The draft guiding principles focused on the need for, inter alia:

  • shared responsibilities to respond to the humanitarian impacts of climate change;
  • leadership and engagement of local governments and communities, civil society and private sector;
  • regional frameworks and international cooperation to enable cross-border movements;
  • increasing the local and national capacity to respond to disasters;
  • further strengthening disaster prevention and preparedness;
  • utilizing existing legal frameworks and protection regimes; and
  • a more coherent approach to protection at the international level.

Chair Wahlström noted that the conference’s guiding principles will be finalized later in the week and are expected to feed into the UNHCR’s Ministerial meeting to be held in Geneva in December 2011, and the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban in November 2011. Jonas Gahr Støre concluded by expressing his hope that these guiding principles could serve as a collective voice of the Nansen Conference. He closed the meeting at 4:37pm.

UPCOMING MEETINGS

Climate Investment Funds Partnership Forum 2011: The Forum provides an opportunity for all stakeholders – governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, private sector, and others – to contribute to deepening global understanding of climate change and development in the CIF context. dates: 24-25 June 2011 location: Cape Town (Western Cape), South Africa contact: CIF Admin Unit phone: +1 202 458 1801 e-mail: CIFAdminUnit@worldbank.org www: http://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/cif/partnership_forum_2011_home

Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change Workshop: The workshop will bring together representatives of indigenous peoples and marginalized populations, natural and social scientists, and other experts in relevant domains to identify, compile and analyze relevant indigenous and local observations, knowledge and practices related to understanding climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. dates: 19-21 July 2011 location: Mexico (Distrito Federal), Mexico contact: UN University, Institute of Advanced Studies Traditional Knowledge Initiative phone: +61 8 8946 6792/7652 fax: +61 8 8946 7720 e-mail: tki@ias.unu.edu www: http://www.unutki.org/default.php?doc_id=187

International Conference on Building Resilience: Focusing on interdisciplinary approaches to DRR and the development of sustainable communities, this conference will be held in association with UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s 2010-2011 World Disaster Reduction Campaign: Making Cities Resilient. dates: 20-22 July 2011 location: Kandalama, Sri Lanka contact: Conference Technical Director email: k.p.keraminiyage@salford.ac.uk www: http://www.disasterresilience.salford.ac.uk/resilientcities/

IDRC 4: The fourth International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC 4), Organized by the Global Risk Forum (GRF) Davos, this meeting will convene under the theme “Integrative Risk Management in a Changing World.” dates: 26-30 August 2012 location: Davos, Switzerland contact: GRF Davos phone: +41 81 414 1600 e-mail: info@grforum.org www: http://idrc.info/pages_new.php/IDRC-Davos-2012/831/1/

Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Conference 2011: The conference will provide a platform from which to launch trans-disciplinary research alliances aimed at in-depth, practical DRR studies. Discussions will focus on characterizing hazards, vulnerability and risk; understanding decision-making in complex and changing risk contexts; and reducing risk and curbing losses through knowledge-based actions. dates: 31 October – 2 November 2011 location: Beijing, China contact: IRDR 2011 Secretariat email:jingma@ciccst.org.cn www: http://www.irdrinternational.org/conference2011.php

Climate 2011/ KLIMA 2011: The focus of this online conference is “Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.” Topics will include: climate-smart disaster risk management; climate-smart capacity-building; costs and benefits of climate-smart adaptation; and climate-smart method, tools and technological solutions. dates: 7-11 November 2011 location: virtual contact: Hamburg University of Applied Sciences e-mail: info@climate2011.net www: http://www.climate2011.net/  

Climate Change and Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Legal and Policy Responses: This conference provides an opportunity for international experts, policy makers, and government officials from affected countries to discuss topics pertaining to climate change-related migration and displacement, security risks, and roles of laws, institutions and governance structures. dates: 10-11 November 2011 location: Sydney, Australia contact: gtcentre@unsw.edu.au www: http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au

IPCC 34: The 34th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be held back to back with the first joint Sessions of IPCC Working Groups I and II to approve and accept the IPCC Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.” The session will also continue consideration of the IPCC review. dates: 18-19 November 2011 location: TBA contact: IPCC Secretariat www: http://www.ipcc.ch/

UNHCR Ministerial-level meeting: This ministerial meeting will mark the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The meeting will enable states, as well as other actors, to make concrete pledges to address specific forced displacement and/or statelessness issues, as well as broader, forward-looking recommendations. dates: 7-8 December 2011 location: Geneva, Switzerland contact: UNHCR phone: +41 22 739 8111 www: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4d22fd496.html

UNFCCC COP 17 and COP/MOP 7: The 17th meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 17) and the seventh session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP 7) will take place in Durban, South Africa. dates: 28 November-9 December 2011 location: Durban, South Africa contact: UNFCCC Secretariat phone: +49 288 815 1000 fax: +49 228 815 1999 email:secretariat@unfccc.int www: http://unfccc.int/

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The Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement Bulletin is a publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) <info@iisd.ca>, publishers of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <enb@iisd.org>. This issue was written and edited by Jennifer Covert, Bo-Alex Fredvik, and Cecilia Vaverka. The Editor is Robynne Boyd <robynne@iisd.org>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@iisd.org>. Funding for coverage of this meeting has been provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Photographs courtesy of Florent Baarch. IISD can be contacted at 161 Portage Avenue East, 6th Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0Y4, Canada; tel: +1-204-958-7700; fax: +1-204-958-7710. The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in other publications with appropriate academic citation. Electronic versions of the Bulletin are sent to e-mail distribution lists (in HTML and PDF format) and can be found on the Linkages WWW-server at <http://www.iisd.ca/>. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <kimo@iisd.org>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, New York 10022, United States of America.

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