This year’s World Humanitarian Day finds a world which continues to be upended by conflicts, disasters, and an unrelenting global pandemic. The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement applauds humanitarian workers around the world for their dedication and committed service to those whose very survival are put at stake by these crises and threats.
The 2021 World Humanitarian Day theme, “The Human Race”, alludes to the ticking clock of the climate crisis. It is a race whose cataclysmic effects are visible, undeniable and know no bounds, as outlined in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In Western Europe, recent floods have inundated entire villages. East Asia has witnessed the heaviest downpours in 1,000 years. Meanwhile, excess rainfall and cyclones in East Africa have contributed to the worst locust outbreak in the region in decades. Everywhere around the world, the worsening climate crisis and its impacts are leaving behind a chorus of destruction of homes, loss of livelihoods and inevitable displacement.
While conflicts and wars continue to uproot millions of people, disasters, including due to the impact of climate change, are responsible for the majority of new internal displacements. As sea levels rise and cyclones, droughts and floods intensify, ever more people are left with no option but to flee their homes in search of safety. Today, 55 million people are internally displaced across the world. The World Bank has however projected that, by 2050, over 143 million could become climate migrants in three of the world’s regions alone if no climate action is taken.
In 2019, the UN Secretary-General tasked us to examine the global internal displacement crisis and make recommendations to States, the international community and civil society for more effective prevention, response and solutions to that crisis. We are close to crossing the finish line in delivering our findings, conclusions and recommendations. Across all of the consultations we have had with governments, humanitarians, development actors, climate and disasters experts, the risks of climate-induced calamity has stood out. The message we heard was loud and clear: climate change is a living reality whose brunt is borne by the most marginalized and vulnerable. But for many countries, regions and peoples, it is nothing short an existential threat that could see entire national populations displaced.
The imperative for accelerated climate actions for prevention, adaptation, mitigation and response is urgent and compelling. Political will by governments to act is key. Strengthened investment in early warning systems, inclusion of displacement risks in disaster management action and a boost in climate financing have also rang out strongly and repeatedly in the calls we have heard in our work. The actions, and indeed inaction, on these issues will determine the future of The Human Race. The window of opportunity is closing as the clock ticks. Action must come now.
The High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement was established by the UN Secretary-General in 2019 to identify concrete recommendations on how to better prevent, respond and achieve solutions to the global internal displacement crisis. The Panel will deliver its report and final recommendations to the UN Secretary-General at the end of September 2021.
The Panel is comprised of eight members:
Co-Chair: Federica Mogherini, Rector of the College of Europe and former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission
Co-Chair: Donald Kaberuka, Chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former Finance Minister of Rwanda and 7th President of the African Development Bank
Paula Gaviria, Director of Fundación Compaz, former Head of the Victim’s Unit in Colombia and Advisor to the President of Colombia on Human Rights
Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation
Nasser Judeh, Senator, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Mitiku Kassa Gutile, Commissioner for the National Disaster Risk Management Commission of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Pauline Riak, Professor of Sociology and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, the Rumbek University of Science and Technology and the Chairperson, Sudd Institute, South Sudan
Sima Samar, Member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation and former Special Envoy of the President and Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
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