Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

Climate change adaptation: A human rights based framework for internal displacement necessary

Publisher UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Publication Date 21 July 2011
Cite as UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Climate change adaptation: A human rights based framework for internal displacement necessary, 21 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e38e7622.html [accessed 23 July 2014]

MALE (21 July 2011) –"The impacts of climate change on the ordinary lives of the people of the Maldives are real and clearly visible. Addressing these impacts through mitigation and adaptation measures is necessary and urgent and will require partnerships with the international community" said Chaloka Beyani, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, upon the completion of his visit to the Maldives (16-21 July 2011).

"I commend the efforts of Maldives authorities for endorsing in June this year the Strategic National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation 2010-2020, which provides a preparatory framework for dealing with natural disasters and climate change" he stated.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that a law on disaster risk reduction is now essential in order to ensure implementation of this strategy, and urged the Government, in consultation with key stakeholders, to finalise the bill, and the Majlis (Parliament) to enact the law on Disaster Management which has been pending for some time. He noted however, that legislation and policy should also address internal displacement, including climate change induced displacement, as recognized in the Cancun Agreements in 2010. Such a framework will be vital for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons. The 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide important standards and guidance in this respect.

"Climate change induced displacement, whether sudden or slow onset, is an issue which must be addressed in the Maldives." He urged Government authorities to ensure that institutional support structures are also geared towards handling internal displacement situations.

The already established National Disaster Management Centre, could play an important role in ensuring the necessary consultation on these matters with all relevant stakeholders and in accelerating the finalization of these laws and policies. But the Centre needs a clear legal standing and mandate to do this effectively, and to coordinate the relevant line Ministries, as well as the newly decentralized island authorities.

"Climate change is very real in the Maldives and its effects on rights, including the right to housing, safe water and livelihoods, are being felt on many islands, such as those which I visited during this trip. The suffering caused by coastal erosion, salination, rising sea levels, and more frequent storms and flooding are all too obvious to be ignored. I saw that Maldivians have a history of resilience that can be harnessed to address these new challenges in locally suitable ways", noted the Special Rapporteur. "It is also essential to put in place climate change induced displacement preparedness measures applying a human rights based approach, and mechanisms for the participation of affected communities", he stressed.

In the event of internal displacement, affected persons will need protection and assistance in finding durable solutions, whether it be in the form of return if the island is still habitable, local integration in the location where they have sought refuge, or resettlement elsewhere in the country. These decisions must be voluntary and informed. Affected communities must also be consulted and have the opportunity for meaningful participation in all decisions affecting them.

Much has been learnt in the Maldives from the internal displacement caused by the tsunami in 2004. These lessons should inform and be integrated into future legislation and policies. The Special Rapporteur further noted that while much was achieved in addressing the situation of tsunami victims, 1600 persons were still living in very difficult conditions in temporary shelters. This situation requires urgent attention and solution oriented action, in order to allow these communities to rebuild their lives.

During his visit the Special Rapporteur met with the President of the Maldives, relevant Government Ministers, officials of local Government, members of the Majlis, the National Disaster Management Center, members of civil society, and UN officials. He also visited sites of displacement affected by the tsunami and islands experiencing the effects of climate change, where he met with affected communities and local island councils. The Special Rapporteur will present his full report on the visit to the Maldives to the Human Rights Council in March 2012.

ENDS

Chaloka Beyani, a Zambian national and professor of international law at the London School of Economics, was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons by the Human Rights Council in September 2010.

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