ASEAN leaders forge action points for PDDs

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COLLABORATION. ASEAN leaders pose for a group photo after the 3-day consultation on people displaced by disasters. Photo from Nansen Initiative.

An international consultation on this issue ended with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders emphasizing the need for international and local policies, and joint action to help people displaced by disasters (PDD) in Southeast Asia, one of the regions most vulnerable to disasters.

Led by the Nansen Initiative (NI), which is launched in 2012 by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, the consultation is aimed to identify the challenges and opportunities that the region faces in relation to disasters, climate change, and human mobility from October 15 to 17.

Professor Walter Kaelin, envoy of the NI, along with representatives of United Nations (UN) agencies and other governments outside the ASEAN, led the consultations and identified 6 areas where action is needed:

1. Disaster risk management and climate change adaptation; the participants agreed to “develop and institutionalize community-based and traditional disaster risk mapping tools and methodologies to identify populations most exposed to natural hazards,” among others.

2. Planned relocation; the leaders stated that this should be done “only in cases where (climate change adaptation) measures are insufficient to protect (communities).”

3. Internal displacement; the conclusions stressed the need for clearer policy guidelines to assess the needs of internally-displaced people (IDPs) and the call to “develop, at the national level, clear policy guidelines to protect IDPs” and to adopt national legislation on internal displacement.

4. Cross-border displacement due to disasters; the ASEAN governments expressed an “open” approach to the problem of cross-border displacement with participants “encouraging” the admission, on a temporary basis, of displaced persons in need of assistance, and examining the possibility of developing temporary protection mechanisms at bilateral, sub-regional or regional levels.

5. Protecting migrants abroad in disaster contexts; the outcome document said, “receiving countries when affected by disasters should provide access to emergency assistance for migrants regardless of their status, allow for and facilitate voluntary departure, and ensure safe passage.”Kaelin clarified that displaced persons are not the same as refugees, as how media would often describe them.

6. Data collection and scientific knowledge; there is a need to find some normative framework for refugees according to Kaelin. While there are good laws protecting refugees, Kaelin said there are currently no legislation protecting displaced persons in the context of disasters.

Photo of Professor Walter Kaelin by Nansen Initiative.
Photo of Professor Walter Kaelin by Nansen Initiative.

The conclusions will be presented and discussed in the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Reduction – where world leaders are expected to draft new DRR policies – in Sendai, Japan in March 2015. The outcome document will also be used for the NI Global Consultation set for Geneva, Switzerland in October of the same year.

Before the NI regional consultations, the 2nd Global Conference on Disaster Response Dialogue (DRD) was also held in Manila from October 13-14. It highlighted the importance of improving trust and cooperation among different international and national bodies for better humanitarian responses to disasters.

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