Thursday, October 29, 2009

African Union grapples with climate refugees

IRIN: An African international agreement has opened the door to a debate on the rights and protection of people displaced by natural disasters, with a nod to migration as a result of climate change. The Kampala Convention, a ground-breaking treaty adopted by the African Union (AU), promises to protect and assist millions of Africans displaced within their own countries. Significantly, the treaty recognized natural disasters as well as conflict and generalized violence as key factors in uprooting people.

Jean Ping, chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, told IRIN that "more and more people are likely to be displaced" as Africa experiences more frequent droughts and floods brought about by climate change.

''The reference to people displaced by natural disasters is as an interesting attempt to find... answers to the new concern about migration linked to environmental degradation'' He said the inclusion of displacement by natural disasters was informed by the global debate on the need to develop a framework for the rights of "climate refugees" - people uprooted from their homes and crossing international borders - because the changing climate threatened their survival.

The treaty also calls on governments to set up laws and find solutions to prevent displacement caused by natural disasters, with compensation for those who were displaced. Migration expert Etienne Piguet said with the Kampala Convention the AU had "once again" tried to push the envelope….

Picture of children displaced by the insurgency of the Lord's Resistance army of northern Uganda into Labuje camp near Kitgum Town. Photo by USAID employee

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