Q&A with Mami Mizutori
“With climate change making extreme weather events much more frequent and intense, it is projected that disaster displacement will increase, particularly in developing countries.”
Why is it important to address disaster displacement?
Every year, 25 million people are displaced globally by sudden onset disasters. Every second somebody is forced to leave their house because of a disaster. If we add the displacement caused by slow onset disasters such as drought to this, the number is much higher.
Unfortunately, with climate change making extreme weather events much more frequent and intense, it’s projected that disaster displacement will increase, particularly in developing countries.
Once people are displaced and cannot go back to where they are originally from, they become extremely vulnerable to many levels of disaster risk including death, injury, and poverty. There is also a high possibility they will be displaced once again – or even multiple times.
They often seek refuge in under-serviced, marginal settlements which are full of risk. The jobs they get are informal, low paid, with little security.
We also have to understand that both displaced people and host communities are affected. Many times they share basic services with the displaced people – and of course this will affect their well-being. When the displacement becomes protracted, the issue becomes very severe.
Tell us about the Words into Action Guide on Displacement
We have developed the Words into Action guide on displacement and disaster risk reduction for stakeholders at the regional, national, sub-national, and local levels. We are particularly hoping that disaster management agencies, civil defense and emergency responders will learn from this Words into Action guide. It also supports the work of national and local governments that are putting policies in place that manage displacement within and across borders. Legislators at national and local levels can also find useful guidance on managing disaster displacement.
Why is disaster risk reduction one of the prerequisites for building resilience?
One of the biggest strengths of the Words into Action guides is cross-sector and inter-institutional collaboration. Producing them is a truly joint effort and we need the support to make them happen.
This particular guide was led by the Norwegian Refugee Council with the support of the Platform on Disaster Displacement. These two organizations helped embed more practical disaster risk reduction solutions into the guide.
But many other institutions and individuals were also involved. Donor countries, for example, are very keen that we come up with practical tools which offer solutions. In the case of this Words into Action guide, the governments of Germany, Norway and Switzerland all played a big role.
How can we better manage displacement?
If we have well-designed disaster risk reduction measures in place then we can avoid or at least reduce the number of people who will be displaced. The measures also help reduce protracted displacement.
Concrete measures that could be established include allowing evacuation processes to happen in an orderly and dignified manner. It important to make sure evacuation routes and where to evacuate to is pre-decided. Measures like this ensure people know how to react before a disaster strikes and where to go once it does.
Another thing that we can do is limit how long people are displaced. From the beginning, if houses and basic infrastructure are built to last in a resilient way, there is a much higher chance people can return to their original homes. And thirdly, there should be response and recovery assistance measures in place to help displaced people in internally displaced circumstances or in other countries.
Data is also very important. The more data national and local governments have on the coverage and efficiency of early warning systems, preparedness and response plans, and future climate change projections, the better equipped they will be to respond to displacement issues.
How does the Sendai Framework address disaster displacement?
The Sendai Framework addresses displacement in many different ways because it is about people and their rights. It has very specific articles around the issue of displacement and highlights the need to develop policies on the relocation of, if I may quote, “human settlements in disaster risk-prone zones” as a potential preventive or adaptive measure.
The framework recognizes the need for both immediate and durable long-term solutions in the post-disaster phase, and aims to empower and assist people disproportionately affected by disasters.
Policies and programmes that address disaster-induced human mobility strengthen the resilience of affected people and host communities are part of the framework. Because as we understand it, both displaced people and host communities are affected.
Another way the Sendai Framework addresses displacement is by identifying a range of activities to reduce, prepare for and respond to disaster displacement. Promoting transboundary cooperation, for example, or appointing focal points on displacement within communities are among many other highlighted activities highlighted in the guide.