Monday, May 10, 2010

Time to talk about climate refugees

A press release from Worldwide Faith News: …As the global climate changes, millions of people will be uprooted by sea-level rise, extreme weather events, droughts and water scarcity. While many players – ranging from development consultants to security pundits – have incorporated this fact into their rhetoric, the international community so far has done little to protect the rights of "climate refugees".

When it comes to climate change induced migration "everybody jumps the bandwagon and waves their own agenda" said Prof. Dr Frank Biermann, an expert in global environmental governance, in a keynote presentation at a recent conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

…"In order to put the rights of these vulnerable populations on the agenda o the international community we must build bridges between academia, civil society organizations, governments and churches working on the issue of climate change," Dr Guillermo Kerber, World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive on climate change, explained. That was the purpose of the 3-4 May conference organized by the WCC, the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and the Protestant German development agency Bread for the World.

…United Nations terminology makes fine distinctions between migrants, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), depending on the how's and why's [sic] of their displacement: did they cross international borders? Were they the target of persecution? How immediate was the threat to their lives and their human rights?

…Those affected share a number of characteristics that set them apart from the political refugees and economic migrants that the world has seen in the past: "climate refugees" will not be able to return to their homelands after a temporary asylum. They are likely to migrate in large numbers, collectively and relatively predictably.

And, most importantly, they have a strong moral and legal claim against the international community, since the world's richest nations have done most to cause their problems….

A street in Dhaka, Bangladesh, shot by Ahron de Leeuw, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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