Thursday, June 12, 2014

A fresh start for climate change refugees

IRIN: Firmly attached to her home region and long used to the harshness of her living conditions, Amina Aliyu would probably not see herself as a potential “climate change refugee”. But there is a strong probability that in 10 or 15 years the place where she lives will no longer be fit for human habitation and migration to another region, or even another country, will be the only option.

...Aliyu has seen climatic changes at first hand. Rainfall, already scarce, has further diminished. But Aliyu is adamant she will not abandon her home region for a less hostile environment. Asked if she could leave she responds emphatically: “No! Generations of my family lies buried here, I cannot leave them. This is my only home.”

But if living conditions become even less sustainable, Aliyu will face difficult options: to stay in the hope of finding new ways of generating income or receiving more external help; moving to another part of the region, or moving even further away and risking the loss of her coveted ancestral and cultural ties.

Cases like that of Aliyu are of obvious interest to the Nansen Initiative, which was set up by the Governments of Switzerland and Norway in October 2012. The Nansen Initiative seeks to develop “a protection agenda addressing the needs of people displaced across international borders by natural hazards, including the effects of climate change”.

The Nansen Initiative works on the premise that climate change and migration need to be looked at together. Climate change will mean larger populations being challenged by both sudden-onset disasters and slow-onset disasters in the future.

The Nansen Initiative argues that current planning mechanisms on climate change, both national and international, are insufficient. The body argues for more effective early warning for extreme climatic events, better water management and more sustained efforts to reduce pressure on fragile environments. The Nansen Initiative particularly highlights the need for the protection of affected populations....

Refugees at Dolo-Odo Camp in Ethiopia, US Embassy photo 

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