Disasters and Displacement in a Changing Climate: The Role of Asia Pacific National Societies

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Executive Summary

Displacement in the context of disasters and climate change has been described as one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of the 21st century. Asia Pacific Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have a vital role and are already active in addressing this challenge, including through initiatives to prevent and prepare for displacement, to respond to displacement and to support recovery and the attainment of durable solutions for those displaced. National Societies and the IFRC also have a key role in undertaking humanitarian diplomacy in support of those most at risk in the context of disaster displacement.

On average, more than 20 million people are newly displaced every year by sudden-onset hazards including floods, storms, wild fires, extreme winter conditions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides. The vast majority of such displacement occurs in the Asia Pacific region.

Displacement can have devastating impacts on those displaced, as well as the communities that receive and support them. Many who are displaced have critical assistance and protection needs, ranging from emergency shelter, health and psychosocial support, access to fresh water and sanitation, protection against violence (including gender-based violence), child protection and longer term support to recover and realize durable solutions. Displacement often disproportionately affects already marginalised and ‘at risk’ groups, including women, children, the elderly, minority groups and those living with disabilities or serious health conditions. Those who are in situations of prolonged or protracted displacement often have serious ongoing needs, and require support to realize durable solutions.

The challenges of disaster displacement, and the humanitarian impacts on those affects, are expected to be amplified by the effects of climate change. The increase in frequency and intensity of sudden-onset hazards is widely expected to lead to increasing levels of displacement and humanitarian need. Slow-onset hazards linked to climate change are also expected to directly and indirectly lead to further displacement, including those related to increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, salinisation, glacial retreat, land and forest degradation, biodiversity loss and desertification. Sea-level rise alone is predicted to displace up to 90 million people in the Pacific and East Asia.

It is increasingly recognized that displacement in the context of sudden- and slow-onset hazards will not be the only type of population movement linked to disasters and climate change.
Increasing numbers of people migrating in response to the impacts of disasters and climate change and people moving in the context of planned relocations are also widely expected. Asia Pacific National Societies have an important role and are already active in addressing migration and planned relocation in the context of disasters and climate change.

Migration, displacement and planned relocation (often referred to collectively as “human mobility”) linked to disasters and climate change are increasingly addressed in a range of national, regional and international laws, policies and strategies. These documents and initiatives often recognize that human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change is not only a cross-sectoral challenge, but also requires a cross-sectoral solution. National Societies and the IFRC have important roles and are increasingly engaged in humanitarian diplomacy initiatives linked to these national, regional and global processes and dialogues.

This report is designed to enhance the collective understanding of Asia Pacific National Societies and the IFRC on the trends, dynamics and humanitarian needs of people on the move in the context of disasters and climate change. The report focuses on the role of Asia Pacific National Societies in the context of displacement, but also addresses the related human mobility trends of migration and planned relocation.

Beyond enhancing knowledge and understanding, the report is also designed to provide guidance for National Societies to individually and collectively enhance their humanitarian action in the context of disasters, displacement and climate change. The report builds upon the latest understanding and expertise on human mobility linked to disasters and climate change. The report also builds on relevant International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement policies, guidance and commitments related to climate change, disaster risk management, disaster law, resilience, protection, gender and inclusion (PGI), migration and displacement. The report contains examples of existing initiatives by Asia Pacific National Societies, demonstrating the diversity and strength of Red Cross Red Crescent action to address this emerging and critical challenge. The examples capture practices from all parts of the Asia Pacific region – from East Asia, from South Asia, from South East Asia, and from the Pacific.

The report is intended to be beneficial across Red Cross and Red Crescent National Society departments, from leadership to disaster management, climate change, health, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), restoring family links (RFL), welfare, migration and beyond. The report is also intended to be useful for representatives from government, regional and global institutions, academia, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies to deepen their understanding of the core mandate and strengths of Asia Pacific National Societies in addressing displacement in the context of disasters and climate change.