Forced displacement related to disasters, including the adverse effects of climate change, is a reality and among the biggest humanitarian challenges facing States and the international community in the 21st century. Between 2008 and 2014 a total of 184.4 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters, an average of 26.4 million people newly displaced each year. Of these, an annual average of 22.5 million people was displaced by weather- and climate-related sudden-onset hazards. Others have to move because of the effects of sea level rise, desertification or environmental degradation. Looking to the future, there is high agreement among scientists that climate change, in combination with other factors, is projected to increase displacement.
The Nansen Initiative is a state-led, bottom-up consultative process intended to identify effective practices and build consensus on key principles and elements to address the protection and assistance needs of persons displaced across borders in the context of disasters, including the adverse effects of climate change. It was launched by the Governments of Norway and Switzerland in October 2012, with the support of the Steering
Group comprised of Australia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Germany, Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines, and accompanied by the Group of Friends co-chaired by Morocco and the European Union. The Initiative builds on paragraph 14(f) of the 2010 UNFCCC Cancun Agreement on climate change adaptation which recognizes displacement, migration and planned relocation as one of the challenges to adapt to climate change.
The Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change (Protection Agenda) was endorsed by 109 governmental delegations during a global intergovernmental consultation on 12-13 October 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland that gathered a total of 361 participants representing governments, international organizations, academic institutions and civil society. The Protection Agenda consolidates the outcomes of a series of regional intergovernmental consultations and civil society meetings convened by the Nansen Initiative in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific over the course of 2013-2015, as well as research commissioned by the Nansen Initiative. The purpose of the Protection Agenda is to enhance understanding, provide a conceptual framework, and identify effective practices for strengthening the protection of cross-border disaster-displaced persons. Rather than calling for a new binding international convention on cross-border disaster-displacement, the Agenda supports an approach that focuses on the integration of effective practices by States and (sub-) regional organizations into their own normative frameworks in accordance with their specific situations and challenges.
In particular, the Protection Agenda addresses the protection and assistance needs of cross-border disaster-displaced persons by exploring potential measures that States may voluntarily adopt and harmonize to admit such persons relying on humanitarian considerations and international solidarity with disaster affected countries and communities. At the same time, the Agenda identifies effective practices to manage disaster displacement risk in the country of origin to prevent displacement by i) reducing vulnerability and building resilience to disaster displacement risk, ii) facilitating migration out of hazardous areas before disasters strike, iii) conducting planned relocation and iv) responding to the needs of internally displaced persons. The Protection Agenda ends with a list of priority areas for future action at national, (sub-) regional and international levels.
The Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change (hereinafter Protection Agenda), endorsed by a global intergovernmental consultation on 12-13 October 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland, consolidates the outcomes of a series of regional intergovernmental consultations and civil society meetings convened by the Nansen Initiative.
L’Agenda pour la protection, qui a été débattu et endossé lors d’une consultation intergouvernementale mondiale les 12 et 13 octobre 2015 à Genève, en Suisse, regroupe les résultats d’une série de consultations intergouvernementales régionales et de réunions avec la société civile organisées par l’Initiative Nansen.
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En la Agenda para la protección de las personas desplazadas a través de fronteras en el contexto de desastres y cambio climático (de aquí en adelante Agenda de Protección), que fue avalada en una consulta intergubernamental a nivel mundial que se llevará a cabo los días 12 y 13 de octubre de 2015 en Ginebra, Suiza, se consolidan los resultados de una serie de consultas intergubernamentales y reuniones con la sociedad civil a nivel regional convocadas por la Iniciativa Nansen.
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We, Ministers and representatives from 110 delegations, met in Geneva on 12 and 13 October 2015 for a Global Consultation to take stock of, and discuss, the findings of the Nansen Initiative, to identify future action, and to strengthen our efforts to prevent and address cross-border disaster-displacement.
Disaster displacement is one of the main humanitarian challenges of our time, affecting tens of millions of people every year. Sudden and slow-onset disasters and climate events have devastating impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods, communities and socio-economic conditions. Climate change, in combination with other factors, is projected to increase displacement in the future. Many States have developed profound knowledge in addressing displacement, migration and planned relocation in the context of disasters and the effects of climate change. Around a quarter of all States have received, or refrained from returning, persons in the aftermath of disasters. At the same time, significant normative, institutional and operational gaps regarding cross-border disaster-displacement leave people vulnerable, particularly women and children. A holistic approach going beyond humanitarian responses is required, including efforts to address displacement and its root causes.
The governments of Norway and Switzerland, building on the 2010 UNFCCC Cancún Adaptation Framework and the 2011 Nansen Conference on Climate Change and Displacement in the 21st Century, pledged at the UNHCR Ministerial Conference in December 2011 to address the need for a more coherent and consistent approach to the protection of people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and the effects of climate change. This was the origin of the Nansen Initiative, a bottom-up, state-led consultative process carried out over the past three years.
The “Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change” (Agenda), a non-binding text, results from this process, marking the fulfilment of the Swiss-Norwegian pledge and the end of the Nansen Initiative in its current form. We thank the Co-Chairs, the Envoy, the Steering Group, the Group of Friends, the Consultative Committee and key international and regional organizations and NGOs for their valuable support. Recognizing that States have the primary responsibility to prevent and respond to disaster displacement, we strive to strengthen our efforts for more effective action to prevent and address cross-border disaster-displacement at all levels, bringing together expertise from the fields of humanitarian assistance and protection, human rights, migration management, disaster risk reduction, climate change, and development and other international cooperation.
We endorse the Agenda as a guiding document to better conceptualize cross-border disaster-displacement. It compiles and analyzes key principles and illustrative examples of effective State practices from around the world, and provides a toolbox of policy options for action. It also highlights regional diversity, the need for important contributions by regional and sub-regional organizations, the international community, and development partners, and the relevant role of affected populations, local communities, including where relevant ethnic groups, and civil society.
The Agenda identifies three priority areas for action: collecting data and enhancing knowledge; enhancing the use of humanitarian protection measures for cross-border disaster-displaced persons; and strengthening the management of disaster displacement risk in the country of origin. The latter may entail, as relevant, integrating human mobility within disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies; facilitating migration with dignity as a potentially positive way to cope with natural hazards and adverse effects of climate change; improving the use of planned relocation; and ensuring that the needs of internally displaced persons in disaster situations are specifically addressed. We recognize these as relevant suggestions, and will promote and apply, as appropriate, the findings of the Agenda nationally as well as in regional and international fora and processes.
We welcome the creation of a group of States and other key stakeholders in Geneva as a forum for dialogue to promote the Agenda at the multilateral level, alongside an institutional arrangement strengthening the coordination and cooperation between UNHCR, IOM and other relevant organizations. This combined approach of continued state-led leadership with operational implementation, including at the regional level and with the expertise of international agencies, aims at an appropriate follow-up to the Agenda and at furthering the momentum of the Global Consultation.
Geneva, 13 October 2015