UN/ISDR Highlights Role of Disaster Reduction in Preventing Climate Displacement

19 January 2011: A release by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) highlights that disaster risk reduction (DRR) is key to preventing climate displacement. It notes that human displacement spurred by the “domino effect of climate change” is becoming a major preoccupation of the international community, drawing links among the work of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), UN/ISDR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

According to UNHCR, if the movement of people is voluntarily undertaken within their country of origin, then their needs are the responsibility of governments and of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). However, forced and cross-border migration is within the realm of UNHCR.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, underlined that climate change and the migration it provokes constitutes a challenge to "the maintenance of international peace and security.” José Riera, UNHCR, stressed the need to build climate-resilient communities, noting that DRR is the key to displacements. He added that humanitarian agencies and governments "must move beyond traditional development planning" and “come terms with the fact that DRR is a component of the solution.”

Margareta Wahlström, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on DRR and Chief of the UN/ISDR, highlighted that many current policies fail to minimize risks, effectively locking “in the vulnerability of communities to future droughts and floods.” She underscored the need for such policies to be revised, in order to address the underlying causes of vulnerability that result in displacement and forced migration.

UNISDR also reflects on the plight of disappearing small island developing States (SIDS) whose “people face loss of territory and statelessness.” Guterres called on the international community to focus on the related issues of nationality, with Riera suggesting the convening of an international conference to come up with approaches for SIDS to this problem. [UN/ISDR Press Release]