Monday, September 08, 2008

Climate Change and the Future Ahead of Us

Ishita Dey

Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Co-Director, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement has introduced a new dimension in the discussion on climate change. He strongly feels that the debate needs to move beyond what terms we propose to use for the affected. Do we term them as “ environmental migrants”, “climate change refugees: Instead he feels that we need to identify specific scenarios which will trigger displacement and migration. He has proposed five specific scenarios which is likely to create migration and displacement. He feels that the international protection mechanisms should be abe address to the following problems. Excerpts from his speech are provided below:-

1.The increase of hydro-meteorological disasters (flooding, hurricanes/typhoons /cyclones, mudslides etc) is going to affect the African and Asian mega deltas. Though the displaced should receive protection under the existing 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal displacement some people might be forced to cross “borders” and according to the present international protection mechanisms they will not qualify as economic migrants or as refugees.

2.Disasters will increase the need for governments to designate areas as high-risk zones too dangerous for human habitation. This means that people may have to be (forcibly) evacuated and displaced from their lands and prohibited from returning to them, and relocated to safe areas. This will occur, for example, because of an increased risk of mudslides in mountain regions, andalong rivers and on coastal plains prone to flooding. The difference between this situation and other forms of disaster-induced displacement is that return usually will not be possible.

3.Environmental degradation and slow onset disasters (e.g. reduction of water availability, desertification, recurrent flooding, salination of costal zones etc.).

4.The case of “sinking” small island states caused by rising sea levels constitutes a particular challenge.

5.A decrease in essential resources (water; food production) due to climate change may well trigger armed conflict and violence: This is most likely to affect regions that have reduced water availability and that cannot easily adapt (e.g. by switching to economic activities requiring less water) due to poverty.

For the detailed speech please click on the link given in the right hand column

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