We're no climate refugees'

By Samisoni Pareti, Chief Editor of Islands Business Magazine amplifying the Pacific voice at COP21 in Paris, France.

3 December, 2015, Paris, France, COP21 - Climate refugees, or people who are displaced by the impacts of climate change are better served by the Nansen Initiative and not by the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, say officials of an advisory group on climate change and human mobility.

The advisory group comprising seven UN and other organisations that work with refugees and environmentally displaced people provide technical support and advice on human mobility in the context of climate change to parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The 1951 Convention on the status of refugees does not cover people who flee climate change effects," coordinator of the advisory group on climate change and human mobility Marine Franck told journalists covering the COP21 in Paris.

"It only covers people who flee conflicts and persecutions. Of course people who flee climate change effects are also entitled to protection and assistance but instead of broadening the current refugee convention, instead of this top down approach, we would rather encourage a bottom up approach.

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                        After Typhoon Mayask in FSM, Photo by Brad Holland, from the Kaselehlie Press

"The Nansen Initiative has conducted several consultations to identify which are the practices of the states that protect people that flee climate change effects, and there are toolboxes available that can be used.

"The idea now in the follow up of the Nansen Initiative is to encourage these states to use these tools in order to have a more harmonised approach."

The terms used for people needing relocation because of the impacts of climate change are migration with dignity, said Franck who works in the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees.

The idea is that people who need to migrate need to have a good education as well as useful skills, as these will ensure that they become useful and productive people in the countries they settle in. To move with dignity means they are not climate refugees, or people who can't help themselves and have to depend on others.

In the Pacific, the Nansen Initiative website says it has done inter-governmental regional consultations and civil society meetings in the Cook Islands and Fiji.

It is a European initiative funded mainly by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, with some funding too from the European Commission, Germany and the MacArthur Foundation. Nansen works with governments around the world including those in the Pacific on the protection of people displaced by disasters including those linked to climate change. - #4PacIslands
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