The United Nations refugee agency has joined 110 nations to strengthen steps to protect people displaced across borders by disasters and climate change.
Delegates endorsed the "Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change" at the Nansen Initiative Global Consultation in Geneva, which concluded Tuesday.
The Agenda identifies the practices necessary to address the possible protection needs of people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change, in a principled and practical way. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has, from the very beginning, been a staunch supporter of the Nansen Initiative and is committed to continuing to work with relevant partners to maximize support to States.
The non-binding agreement adopted at the meeting pledges to protect people driven to other countries by disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.
“Among the most important lessons derived from the Nansen Initiative is that states can prevent and prepare for increased displacement in future when the right policies are in place,” UNHCR said in a press release.
The UN refugee agency has also launched an overview highlighting its work on the environment and climate change, which has been released at a time when more and more people are vulnerable to environmental disasters and changing global temperatures. UNHCR notes that the majority of the almost 60 million people displaced around the world today are situated in 'climate change hotspots.'
The overview also sets out UNHCR initiatives to tackle climate and disaster displacement, including the development of guidance, together with the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, on planned relocation of populations threatened by disasters and climate change.
With the upcoming UN conference in Paris, known informally as COP 21, where global leaders will meet to reach consensus on a historic climate change agreement, UNHCR has renewed its call for states to reach an accord that takes into account the growth of climate-change related human mobility and the need to take proactive measures in response.
"If we can draw any lessons from the current refugee situations in Europe and the Middle East, it is to take the forecasting seriously, accept the realities of migration and displacement, and deal with them effectively and as a matter of urgency,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk in his address at the Nansen Consultation.
"Radical action is required of us now to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. The Paris agreement presents an opportunity to achieve this,” he added.