South Asian geography is diverse, ranging from the world’s highest elevations in Hindu-Kush Himalayas to the low-lying coastal plains and islands of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal. Due to these unique geo-climatic conditions, South Asia is exposed to a wide array of natural hazards that can trigger human mobility (displacement, migration and planned relocation), including sudden-onset tropical cyclones, flash floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, avalanches and glacial lake outburst floods, as well as slow-onset desertification, droughts, salt water intrusion, and erosion.
Over the years, these natural hazards have resulted in significant displacement in South Asia. Between 2008 and 2013, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that more than 46 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters in South Asia.4 India ranked the highest, with some 26 million people displaced during that same period. In a densely populated region with approximately 1.7 billion people, a single event in South Asia can result in large-scale movements. For example, an estimated 11 million people were displaced in 2010 when Pakistan’s Indus River flooded, while in October 2013 the Indian Government evacuated over one million people in anticipation of Tropical Cyclone Phailin reaching its shores, with 13.2 million people ultimately affected by the disaster.
South Asia Regional Civil Society Meeting
This background paper informs the Nansen Initiative South Asia Civil Society Meeting taking place in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2-3 February 2015, which will explore the issue of human mobility (displacement, migration and planned relocation) in the context of disasters and climate change in the South Asia. Launched by the Governments of Norway and Switzerland in October 2012, the Nansen Initiative is a state-led, bottom-up consultative process intended to build consensus on the development of a Protection Agenda addressing the needs of people displaced across international borders in the context of natural hazards, including those linked to the effects of climate change.
The Nansen Initiative Civil Society Meeting “Climate Change, Disasters, and Human Mobility in South Asia” brought together around 70 participants to discuss human mobility1 in the context of disasters and a changing climate in the South Asia Region.2 Participants came from Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan, and represented civil society, national and international NGOs, international organizations as well as research institutions. The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Nansen Initiative jointly organized the meeting with generous financial support from the MacArthur Foundation.
CLUSTERS AND HUBS: TOWARD A REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE FOR VOLUNTARY ADAPTIVE MIGRATION IN THE PACIFIC
Bruce Burson and Richard Bedford
Pacific peoples have had to contend with and adapt to a multiplicity of disruptive and destructive geological and extreme weather events for centuries. While temporary internal migration and displacement have featured as a response to the events in many instances, the current concern about the effects of climate change in the region has generated discussion about the extent to which future disasters or slow‑onset environmental degradation will lead to increased cross‑border mobility or displacement. This research was commissioned to follow up on recommendations from the Nansen Initiative’s Pacific Regional Consultation held in May 2013 which concluded that, while having to leave one’s country was the least preferred option for Pacific peoples, cross‑border mobility in the context of natural disasters and environmental degradation was a reality in the Pacific region which demanded that states begin to plan for movement now. It was recognized that voluntary migration abroad was only one way, within a set of broader policy options, to prevent future displacement and adapt to climate change.
DISASTER RELATED HUMAN MOBILITY WITHIN RELEVANT PACIFIC REGIONAL LAWS, POLICIES AND FRAMEWORKS
A. Gero, Institute for Sustainable Futures,University of Technology, Sydney
As small island states in a vast ocean, Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including extreme weather events, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. There is mounting evidence that climate change is altering the patterns of weather‑related disasters globally, including slow onset events like droughts, sea level rise and rapid onset events like tropical cyclones, flooding and severe storms (IPCC, 2012; IPCC, 2013; Knutson et al., 2010). The direct and indirect impacts of climate change, coupled with ongoing development challenges, are becoming increasingly visible in particular parts of the Pacific region today.
LAND AND HUMAN MOBILITY IN THE PACIFIC: THE EFFECTS OF NATURAL DISASTERS
This report is a further output of the Pacific Regional Consultation. The consultation outcomes identified land issues as a key challenge for measures to address disaster‑related human mobility in the Pacific.
The outcomes document recommended actions to ensure, in circumstances of displacement or relocation:
• adequate mechanisms and/or safeguards to prevent and solve conflicts over land and resources due to factors such as cultural diversity or population growth.
• measures such as land audits, demarcation of uncontested boundaries and community land mapping to facilitate the identification of land.
PACIFIC DIASPORA: MOBILITY, TRANSNATIONALISM, AND IDENTITY OF TUVALU
Based on diverse dynamics of motivations, a large number of the Pacific Islanders have formed diasporic communities in metropolitan countries beyond boundaries. Transnational migration is not a new phenomenon among them as these practices with the continuous flow of remittances have been central to the socioeconomic development of Pacific microstates since the post-colonial era. This paper explores the questions of the impact of transnational migration of the Pacific Islanders and their maintenance of cultural values through their community activities. The findings I present here are based on qualitative analysis of transnational migration among the several Tuvaluan immigrant communities in Auckland, New Zealand. The Pacific diasporic islanders maintain their strong links to their homelands in multiple and complex ways, and the forms of mobility and transnationalism continue to shape their lives.