Opening Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz at the Panel Discussion on the Platform on Disaster Displacement

Sep 7, 2017

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Federal Government of Germany, which holds the Chairmanship of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, I would like to thank you all for your interest in this briefing.

As you may all know, the root causes and drivers of displacement across the world today are diverse and complex. Climate change and natural disasters are increasingly being acknowledged as posing unprecedented challenges on the global scale and leading to different forms of displacement and migration.

Disaster displacement undoubtedly ranks among the biggest humanitarian challenges of the 21st century; it compromises human rights, raises multiple protection concerns, undermines development and is already affecting the most vulnerable countries and population groups around the world.

Unfortunately Ambassador Daunivalu from Fiji, who had promised to give the keynote speech, is not able to be with us today. He has been instructed by his capital to attend a meeting in Morocco on very short notice. We had hoped that a representative from an affected region like Fiji could paint a vivid picture of the impacts of climate change and disasters on vulnerable populations.

It is estimated that in 2015, sudden-onset disasters linked to natural hazards displaced around 19 million people in 113 countries. In 2016 new disaster related displacements stood at 24.2 million in 118 countries.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center found that, on average, from 2008 to 2016, a total of 25.3 million people per year were displaced by disasters, mainly sudden-onset disasters. The number of people being displaced by slow-onset disasters, or being displaced several times in the context of climate change, we can only guess.

The effects of such displacement can be seen currently in many regions of the world.  To name but a few examples, the Horn of Africa is suffering a combination of drought and famine right now, the cyclone Mora hit Bangladesh in May this year, which directly impacted vulnerable refugee populations already in the country, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti left 1.5 million people homeless.

These three examples clearly highlight the interconnectedness of climate change, disasters, and displacement, in all their complexity.

Most disaster displaced persons are in fact internally displaced and remain within their own country. But some have to cross international borders in order to reach safety and obtain assistance. These people pay a heavy price as displacement is a devastating experience. Their possibilities for refuge in another country are not regulated by international law.

In May 2016, Germany launched the Platform on Disaster Displacement at a side event during the World Humanitarian Summit. As an introduction to today’s briefing, let me provide some background as to why and how the Platform on Disaster Displacement came into being.

People who have moved across international borders in disaster contexts are protected by human rights law. However, international law does not explicitly address whether and under which circumstances disaster displaced persons shall be admitted into another country, what rights they have during their stay, and under what conditions they may be returned or find another lasting solution.

In response to this gap, the Governments of Switzerland and Norway launched “The Nansen Initiative” in 2012. This Initiative embarked on regional and global consultations to build consensus on effective practices that address the needs of people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change.

These practices were compiled in a document called the “Nansen Initiative Agenda for the Protection of Cross-border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change”. This Protection Agenda was endorsed by over 100 governmental delegations during a Global Consultation in October 2015, which marked the end of the Nansen Initiative.

The Protection Agenda offers States a toolbox to better prevent and prepare for displacement before a disaster strikes, as well as to better respond to situations when people are forced to find refuge, either within their own country or across an international border.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the governments of Switzerland and Norway for their great commitment to developing the Protection Agenda and for their leadership of the Nansen Initiative. The Nansen Initiative was an important starting point for the enormous challenge of addressing disaster-induced displacement.

The Platform on Disaster Displacement builds on the achievements of the Nansen Initiative. Germany is honored to have assumed the Chairmanship of the Platform on Disaster Displacement together with Bangladesh as Vice-Chair.

The main objective of the Platform is to follow-up on the work started by the Nansen Initiative consultative process and to implement the recommendations of the Protection Agenda.

The Platform is a state-led process, and we work towards enhanced cooperation, coordination and action to improve the protection of disaster displaced persons. 

We promote concerted efforts at the national, regional and international levels. And we support interaction among stakeholders from a broad range of areas, including Humanitarian Assistance, Protection, Human Rights, Migration Management, Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation and Development.

To do so, the Platform is composed of 3 pillars:

  1. the Steering Group,
  2. the Advisory Committee and
  3. the Coordination Unit.

The platform’s overall leadership and guidance are provided by a Steering Group, which is currently made up of 17 Member States and the EU, convening in Geneva for regular meetings.

Our Advisory Committee supplies expert input and strategic advice to the Platform. This committee meets annually in Geneva. It is made up of over 100 representatives of international and regional organizations, research institutions, academia, non-governmental organizations and civil society stakeholders.

The Coordination Unit based in Geneva acts as the secretariat for the Platform. Germany has provided secondments to IOM and UNHCR respectively, who support our work through mainstreaming the topic of disaster displacement in their agencies’ work. We are working towards more secondments in other agencies and regions.

We are grateful for IOM and UNHCR’s resolve to work closely with us and take on a leading role in the implementation of many of the activities of the PDD.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts and contribution of Professor Walter Kaelin, the Envoy of our Chairmanship.

We are grateful to have such a distinguished expert on displacement as Envoy. His expertise will be instrumental as we move this agenda forward. Certainly you know him from the numerous positions he has held in multilateral organizations, including his position as the Envoy of the Chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative (2012-2015).

The topic of disaster displacement is gaining more and more traction in many fora. The link between the adverse effects of climate change, disasters and disaster displacement has already been recognized in global policy processes and outcome documents such as:

  • the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030,
  • the outcome documents of the 5th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun,
  • the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
  • the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through its Taskforce on Displacement
  • the Paris Agreement,
  • the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and the Secretary General’s Agenda for Humanity
  • several humanitarian resolutions of the General Assembly and the ECOSOC
  • and the recent Human Rights Council’s resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change during its 35th session.

In all these frameworks and agreements, Member States recognized the humanitarian and development challenges posed by the adverse effects of climate change and disasters.

In all these different policy areas, States have committed to reduce the risk of disasters, to ensure better preparedness for disasters, to promote risk-informed decision making and to scale up mitigation and adaptation efforts. If successful, all of these measures will reduce the risk of displacement, internally and across borders.

Additionally, this year, we see important strides being made in addressing large movements of migrants and refugees. The New York Declaration adopted in September 2016 complements the aforementioned commitments.

Member States have committed to work towards the adoption of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees, in 2018.

This process presents an important opportunity for us as Member States to push the protection of people displaced across borders in the context of disasters, including those linked to the adverse effects of climate change.

In the process of creating these two compacts on both migrants and refugees, I appeal that we as States make sure that displacement in the context of disasters and climate change and the Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda are properly reflected, especially in the Global Compact on Migration.

The Steering Group and Advisory Committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement are set-up and running. The Platform nevertheless needs your attention, your interest and your engagement.

It is called Platform because it is not an exclusive club but invites the whole international community to join forces and work together on disaster displacement.

I invite you to join our activities and support the Platform and I will now give the floor to Professor Kaelin, followed by an intervention form Tareq Ariful Islam, Deputy Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, representing the Vice-Chair of the Platform. Last but not least, I would like to welcome to our panel Juan Carlos Méndes Barquero, Regional Advisor of the Platform for the Americas - an important secondment to the Platform which is supported by the Governments of Switzerland and Costa Rica.

Thank you very much.

Prof. Kaelin, you have the floor.

© GermanyUN

Opening Remarks by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz at the Panel Discussion on the Platform on Disaster Displacement

Platform on Disaster Displacement