(IRIN) – The international community has steadfastly dodged the issue of recognition and protection for “climate refugees” – people forced to relocate to another country as a result of the risks and hazards of a changing climate. Now, the first global initiative to address humanitarian options is underway, with discussions focusing on the Pacific Ocean states to take place soon.
The UN Guiding Principles on Internal displacement, international human rights legislation, and many national laws protect the rights of people displaced within their own countries as a result of natural disasters, but those prompted to move across borders have no protection and are particularly vulnerable.
“There are unclear mandates for [aid] agencies to respond to cross-border displacement, since no NGO or agency has responsibility for overseeing people displaced by natural disasters,” said Walter Kaelin, a former representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and long-time advocate for people displaced directly as a result of extreme natural events.
Kaelin is also the envoy to the chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative, an intergovernmental effort named after polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees appointed by the League of Nations in 1921, who introduced the ‘Nansen passport’ for stateless people.