Addressing Climate Migration Through the Platform on Disaster Displacement: The Practice
by Virginia Raffaeli
In the first instalment of this two-part series on responses to climate migration we presented some of the challenges linked to cross-border disaster displacement, and the launch of the Nansen Initiative which resulted in the 2015 Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change (Protection Agenda) and the launch of the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD).
The Protection Agenda
As highlighted in the Protection Agenda itself, disaster displacement is multi-causal, with climate change being one of the most important, but not the only factor . Population growth, underdevelopment, weak governance, armed conflict, violence, and poor urban planning are also causes of disaster displacement since they weaken resilience and exacerbate the impacts of natural hazards, environmental degradation, and climate change .
The aim of the Protection Agenda is therefore to assist the international community in preventing, avoiding and responding to disaster displacement and its causes .
In order to achieve this goal, the Protection Agenda conceptualises a comprehensive approach to disaster displacement which focuses not only on protecting cross-border disaster-displaced persons (hereafter CBDDPs), but also on identifying measures to manage disaster displacement risks in the country of origin . More specifically, the Protection Agenda identifies three priority areas for enhanced action, namely 1) collecting data and enhancing knowledge, 2) enhancing the use of humanitarian protection measures, and 3) strengthening the management of disaster displacement risk in the country of origin [1, 2]. The Agenda thus recommends a broad set of effective practices which can be used by both states and other actors to ensure effective future responses, including in particular the importance of coordination and a holistic approach to policy-making [1, 2].
Moreover, the Protection Agenda seeks to further complement and support the work of the UNFCCC COP, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that of the World Humanitarian Summit [1, 2].
Protecting cross-border disaster-displaced persons
According to the Protection Agenda, the inability of CBDDPs to fall under the legal category of “refugees” and the relevant international protection requires the recognition of the status of “displaced person” as someone whose life or livelihood is at risk because of a disaster, or who cannot access the necessary humanitarian protection or assistance in their own country . Together with the recognition of this status and cases of “mass influx”, states ought to guarantee CBDDPs the same rights and protection as citizens and refugees, including through compliance with the principle of non refoulement, namely the right to not be forcefully returned from the country of asylum. .
Managing disaster displacement risk in the country of origin
Amongst the measures identified in the Protection Agenda to tackle disaster displacement in the country of origin we find the reduction of vulnerability and the building of resilience to the disaster displacement risk . Effective practices in this regard include disaster risk reduction activities, infrastructure improvements, urban planning, climate change adaptation measures, land reform, as well as measures to increase the likelihood of people who are nonetheless affected by disasters being able to stay in their homes .
“Migration with dignity”, planned relocation, and adequate assistance for internally displaced people are also all important tools to address disaster displacement .
The Platform on Disaster Displacement
The PDD plays a key role in the implementation of the Protection Agenda by building strong partnerships between policy-makers, practitioners and researchers and by providing a multi-stakeholder forum for dialogue, information sharing, and both policy and normative development .
Furthermore, it collaborates with other organisations working on climate change and disaster displacement, such as the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in order to find the most comprehensive and coherent solutions to these global problems .
Among the PDD’s most successful partnerships is the production of the 2019 Words into Action Guidelines on Disaster Displacement: How to Reduce Risk, Address Impacts and Strengthen Resilience in collaboration with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Norwegian Refugee Council . In a complementary manner to the Protection Agenda itself, these Guidelines assist states in the implementation of the Sendai Framework [6, 7].
Partnerships such as the Words into Action Guidelines demonstrate how the PDD is becoming a leading voice in the global management of disaster displacement . Indeed, as stated by the PDD itself, its “state-led character allows for targeted and coordinated global advocacy on disaster displacement to ensure that global and regional commitments to prevent, reduce, and address disaster displacement remain high on the international agenda, in a context of broad and ambitious goals and competing priorities” .
By increasing its partnerships and strengthening its role as a multi-stakeholder forum for dialogue and information sharing, the non-binding Platform for Disaster Displacement can drive the development of coherent policies and of new normative frameworks to tackle disaster displacement and climate change without needing to resort to lengthy diplomatic processes for binding international conventions and treaties.
References: The Nansen Initiative (2015). Agenda for the Protection of Cross Border Disaster Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. Volume I: 6-9, 22-30. Available at: https://disasterdisplacement.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/EN_Protection_Agenda_Volume_I_-low_res.pdf [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 McAdam, J. (2016). From the Nansen Initiative to the Platform on Disaster Displacement: Shaping International Approaches to Climate Change, Disasters and Displacement. University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 4, 2016, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 17-4: 1525-1530, http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2901910.
 ‘Platform on Disaster Displacement’, IOM Environmental Migration Portal. Available at: https://environmentalmigration.iom.int/policy/platform-disaster-displacement [Accessed on 24 July 2021].
 Platform on Disaster Displacement (2018). Platform on Disaster Displacement: Update on 2017 Progress: 1, Agenda for Humanity, Available at: https://agendaforhumanity.org/initiatives/3833.html [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 ‘Climate Change and Disaster Displacement,’ UNHCR, Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/climate-change-and-disasters.html [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 ‘What is the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,’ United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Available at https://www.undrr.org/implementing-sendai-framework/what-sendai-framework [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 UNDRR (2019). Words into Action. Disaster Displacement: How to Reduce Risks, Address Impacts and Strengthen Resilience, Geneva, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction: 5. Available at: https://www.undrr.org/disaster-displacement-how-reduce-risk-address-impacts-and-strengthen-resilience [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 McClean D. (2021), Disaster displacement is great humanitarian challenge of 21st century; Commemoration of the adoption of the Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement and the Nansen Initiative in 2015: Remarks by Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Available at: https://www.undrr.org/news/disaster-displacement-great-humanitarian-challenge-21st-century [Accessed 13 August 2021].
 Platform on Disaster Displacement (2019). Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) 2019-2022 Strategy: 3., Available at: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://disasterdisplacement.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/26062019-PDD-Strategy-2019-2022-FINAL_to_post_on_website.pdf&hl=en [Accessed 15 August 2021].