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Report on Internally Displaced Persons Highlights Influence of Climate Change, Other Megatrends

24 October 2012: Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, presented his report titled “Protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons” to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US. Beyani underscores that internal displacement remains a significant human rights challenge.

According to the report, natural hazards, most often the result of climate-related disasters, are an increasing cause of internal displacement. It highlights that natural hazards affected 61 countries and nearly 15 million persons in 2011, with the most severe effects felt in Asia. The report calls for increased attention to smaller disasters, which are frequently under-reported, but still impact low-income communities, undermining resilience and creating or aggravating vulnerabilities.

Despite progress on responses to internal displacement, Beyani underscores that “enormous challenges remain,” highlighting “mega trends like rapid urbanization, human mobility, population growth and food and water insecurity.” He stresses that climate change will likely contribute to more prevalent natural disasters and increased internal displacement, exacerbating displacement magnitude and patterns. The report also discusses internal displacement in urban centers, describing urbanization trends and highlighting challenges.

The report describes efforts to raise awareness and improve responses to climate-induced displacement, following a thematic focus on climate change in the Special Rapporteur's  2011 report. The 2012 report highlights the adoption of an adaptation framework at the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the UNFCCC, which acknowledges climate-induced displacement and calls for enhanced understanding, coordination and cooperation on climate-related displacement, migration or relocation. The report recommends the adoption of climate change adaptation frameworks that “comprehensively integrate internal displacement from a human rights-based approach.”

The report further recommends climate change adaptation strategies to address slow onset events, such as desertification, droughts, and environmental degradation, which can undermine agricultural livelihoods and food security. It calls on the international community to, inter alia, build capacity to address climate-induced internal displacement, due to both sudden and slow onset natural hazards. The report also recommends that national authorities, among other things, adopt policies and frameworks to address internal displacement, including on disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

The report also describes the Special Rapporteur's activities, including his participation in events on climate change and natural disasters. [Special Rapporteur Report] [UN Press Release]