Consultation in Asia concludes with recommendations on disaster displacement for UN High-Level Panel

19 November 2020

Heavy monsoon rains in Bangladesh in July 2019 triggered widespread flooding. Photo credit: OCHA ROAP

A consultation on disaster displacement in Asia concluded today with recommendations for the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, reiterating above all the call for greater attention to prevention and preparedness. Under the leadership of the Regional Disaster Displacement Working Group for Asia and the Pacific (DDWG), co-chaired by IOM and UNDRR, the webinar saw more than 150 participants joining virtually across the globe to hear from and engage with Asian government representatives on their country experiences and lessons learned. Other co-organizers include the Secretariat of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), the GP20 Initiative, IFRC, UNDP and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute.

Disasters trigger the majority of new displacement each year, displacing nearly three times as many people within their countries as conflicts.

The issue is particularly salient to Asia-Pacific as the world’s most disaster-prone region. According to an IDMC report, 80 percent of documented disaster displacement occurred across the region between 2008 and 2019.

The consultation was opened by Dr Maria Nenette Motus, IOM Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, who highlighted the event as a “unique opportunity” to discuss displacement in the regional context. "There is so much wealth and experiences to learn from this region,” she said.

Among the speakers was High-Level Panel member Dr Sima Samar. “Coming from Afghanistan, I have seen the impact of climate change and disasters firsthand,” said Dr Samar. She recalled to the heavy toll droughts have caused on the livelihoods of communities and the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable groups who lack the resources and resilience to withstand shocks. “One thing that is clear is that we must make this a shared, global priority,” she added.

The effect of climate change was also emphasized in the remarks of Walter Kälin, Envoy of the Chair of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) and Expert Advisory Group member of the High-Level Panel. “A majority of displacement in Asia is clearly linked to global warming and climate change,” he said. “There are large numbers, but the good news is that we can do something about it. This is about reducing the hazard, and in the context of climate change, the full implementation of the Paris Agreement,” he stressed.

According to a recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of IDPs, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, over 143 million people alone could be forced to move within their own countries by 2050 if there are no concrete development and climate action. Ms. Jimenez-Damary herself participated in the regional consultation as the event’s moderator.

Participants then heard from representatives from Mongolia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, who shared their countries’ experiences in preventing and responding to disaster displacement. They highlighted different policy and operational approaches being used in their country contexts, which can provide valuable lessons for other countries and for the High-Level Panel.  While each country’s experience is unique, they all share some commonalities in their reflections including the importance of a strong policy framework, local action, multi-stakeholder engagement and strengthened data collection.

In closing the consultation, Loretta Hieber-Girardet, Chief of Supporting and Monitoring Sendai Framework Implementation Branch at the UNDRR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, thanked the participants for keeping the issue of disaster displacement high on the political agenda as well as on the DRR and climate change agenda. “It is important that we continue to mobilize, to share lessons and to advocate for more action,” she concluded.

The recommendations from this joint consultation will serve as inputs for the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement. The Panel is expected to deliver its report to the UN Secretary-General in September 2021.


From left to right: 

  • Nenette Motus, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
  • Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons
  • Sima Samar, Member of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement
  • Walter Kaelin, Envoy of the Chair of Platform of Disaster Displacement (PDD) and Expert Advisor to High Level Panel on Internal Displacement
  • Sayanaa Lkhagvasuren, Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mongolia
  • Cliff Cyril Y. Riveral, Director of Disaster Response, Management Bureau, Philippines
  • Md Mohsin, Secretary at Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Bangladesh
  • Suprayoga Hadi, Primary Planner at National Development Planning Agency, Indonesia
  • Major General Sudantha Ranasighe, Director General of Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka
  • Mohammad Qaseem Haidari, Deputy Minister for Policy, Coordination, and Planning, Afghanistan
  • Ms. Loretta Hieber-Girardet, Chief, Supporting and Monitoring Sendai Framework Implementation Branch, UNDRR.

For more information

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