Disasters affect people in different ways. One of them is displacement.
Millions of people are displaced in the context of disasters around the world, every year. In 2020 alone, 30.7 million new displacements were related to disasters, according to estimates by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. ￼Disaster displacement is multi-causal and driven by political, social, demographic, and environmental factors, including land degradation and unsustainable urbanization, among others. It occurs in the context of earthquakes and other geophysical hazards or is linked to extreme weather events, such as floods, storms and drought. Weather-related events were responsible for 98 per cent of all disaster displacement recorded in 2020.
The adverse effects of climate change are already increasing the frequency and intensity of weather-related hazards and undermining resilience. Climate change has contributed to almost a doubling of disaster events over the past two decades. As more people become exposed and are vulnerable to the impacts of such hazards, disaster displacement risk is likely to continue to increase. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects human mobility patterns will change in response to extreme weather events and climate variability, including slow-onset events and processes such as drought and sea level rise. The 2022 IPCC Working Group II Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report has “high confidence” that, “in the mid- to long-term, displacement will increase with intensification of heavy precipitation and associated flooding, tropical cyclones, drought and, increasingly, sea level rise”.
Displacement has devastating impacts on individuals and communities, especially the most vulnerable.
Moving away from risk areas can save lives. Pre-emptive evacuations are therefore a key component of disaster management. Population movements, however, need to be well-managed. Disaster displacement can have devastating social, economic, health and psychological impacts on individuals and communities, and affect the effective enjoyment of their human rights. Poorly anticipated, prepared for and managed displacement and its related impacts exacerbate pre-existing conditions of vulnerability, severely affecting children, women, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, traditional communities and people already marginalized. The needs and conditions of displaced persons may also be compounded by other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity and increasing water scarcity.
Disaster displacement raises multiple protection concerns, undermines development gains, affects human rights and human security, across the globe. ￼Disproportionate impacts are often borne more strongly by least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS).
National and regional DRR strategies and practice
DRR strategies and practice play an important role in preventing and reducing risks associated with disaster displacement, strengthening resilience, and addressing the protection needs of people already displaced or at risk of being displaced. They should promote human-rights based approaches to disaster displacement and build coherence and partnerships across related policy areas, contributing to an effective use of knowledge and resources across silos. Furthermore, the inclusion and meaningful participation of people at risk of displacement and those already displaced, in planning, response and recovery, is essential ￼to better plan for potential displacement, ensure the effective achievement of solutions and to avoid the creation of further risk. Inclusion and participation is essential at all times, before, during and after displacement, with due attention to age, gender and diversity considerations.
Currently, no displacement-related metric is included among the indicators that countries use to monitor progress against the risk reduction objectives of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Governments should include displacement in their national DRR targets and indicators to measure their progress in the implementation of the Sendai Framework, and ensure these are aligned with sustainable development and climate change planning processes and reporting.
Addressing disaster displacement in a coherent manner across relevant policy areas
Effective approaches to addressing disaster displacement through the Sendai Framework will require coherence with and partnerships across related policy areas, including the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, the Global Compact for Migration and many others:
Communities and societies are already suffering losses and damages, including displacement. The need to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change is recognized as a priority by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 2015 Paris Agreement. It is addressed in particular through the work of the Task Force on Displacement under the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) acknowledges the importance of DRR in minimizing the drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin in the context of disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation.
Disaster displacement is also recognized as a key human rights, humanitarian and development challenge by the Human Rights Council, Human Rights Treaty Bodies, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Agenda for Humanity, the New Urban Agenda and the Global Compact on Refugees. The UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement has affirmed the need to work across development, peace, climate change adaptation and DRR communities to address internal displacement.
To reduce and minimize risks related to displacement and to achieve better outcomes for disaster displaced persons worldwide, ￼it is important for these global agendas and frameworks to guide regional and national policies in a coherent manner, and give support to action at the local level.
The Migrants and Displaced People group declares:
Disasters affect people in many ways. Disaster displacement is one of them. States and other stakeholders should invest in disaster risk reduction, assess potential disaster displacement and prepare for movement in a way that minimizes associated risk.
These efforts should be coherent with wider climate action, human mobility, human rights, humanitarian and development efforts to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of people at risk of displacement, address the protection needs of displaced people and achieve durable solutions to displacement.
States and other stakeholders are called upon to:
1. Include provisions to address disaster displacement and other forms of human mobility in a coherent way in local, national and regional DRR policies and strategies.
2. Work across silos and strengthen governance to foster the effective and coherent implementation of these policies and strategies in line with relevant global, regional and national policy frameworks and strategies on climate change action, development, humanitarian assistance and protection, human rights, migration management and refugee protection, among others.
3. Strengthen efforts to understand risks related to disaster displacement, collect disaggregated displacement data, and use such information when reporting on and monitoring implementation of progress on DRR, and when developing contingency, preparedness, response and recovery plans.
4. Build the capacity of local, national and regional stakeholders to address disaster displacement through the application of effective practices and existing learning, and ensure the allocation of funding, including at the local level.
5. Ensure the inclusion and meaningful participation of people and groups displaced or at risk of displacement as well as host communities in DRR planning and response, with due attention to age, gender and diversity considerations.
Member States are encouraged to express the following commitments:
A. Strengthen governance i.a. through the following actions:
Update or develop local, national and regional DRR strategies and policies with provisions on disaster displacement and human mobility, building on efforts made to achieve Target E.
Ensure that national DRR policies and strategies are coherent with policies and strategies on climate change action, development, humanitarian assistance and protection, human rights, migration management, refugee protection, etc.
Implement the Words into Action Guidelines on Disaster Displacement, use the accompanying Checklist, and build capacity through the eLearning course and other training.
Designate a governmental focal point on disaster displacement to facilitate information-sharing and, as relevant, coordination within and across ministries, between the local and national level, and with civil society, affected communities and other partners.
Allocate funding and ensure appropriate human resources, for the implementation of these measures into disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery as well as capacity building and training, including at the local level.
Scale up the application and sharing of effective practices and learning, including the use of risk assessments, early warning systems and other preparedness measures, to ensure that disaster displacement is addressed and related risk is reduced, in line with the Sendai Framework.
B. Improve the evidence base on disaster displacement and associated risk by:
improving disaster displacement data collection, including through disaggregating data and by monitoring all stages of displacement in line with data protection standards; and
developing national targets and indicators on new and existing disaster displacement, for national reporting and to the Sendai Framework Monitor, in line with the SDGs; and
enhancing access to data and evidence on risks related to disaster displacement and other forms of human mobility, including through the development of disaster displacement risk models and the inclusion of the views and experiences of affected communities.