Anniversary virtual conference: ‘Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option’

Anniversary virtual conference: ‘Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option’
5 February 2021

Hundreds of representatives from governments, UN, development and humanitarian agencies, universities, and other branches of civil society yesterday attended a virtual conference at the invitation of Fiji and France to mark the fifth anniversary of three key global policy frameworks on displacement from disasters and climate impacts.

The Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda, the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement were all agreed by the international community five years ago and, organizers say, it is time to assess progress, identify opportunities for scaling up, and “ensure coherence and shared dialogue”.

The virtual conference was jointly hosted by the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), currently chaired by Fiji with France as vice-chair. 


In a statement just ahead of the meeting, co-hosts UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration called on states to “strengthen the protection and assistance of people displaced in the context of disasters and climate change”.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “From South Sudan, to the Sahel, to the ‘dry corridor’ in Central America, refugees, internally displaced and stateless people are often among the first to be affected by the climate emergency.

“We need to invest now in preparedness to mitigate future protection needs and prevent further climate-caused displacement. Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option.”

The IFRC’s Ezekiel Simperingham, its Global Lead, Migration and Displacement, adds: “Addressing the needs of people forced to flee their homes by disasters and climate change is one of the most complex and defining humanitarian challenges of our time. We can and must act now to better protect communities so they have a real choice to stay and not flee.

“National Societies are already doing this through climate smart-disaster risk reduction and initiatives to build resilience, including nature-based solutions.

“We can also better prepare for unavoidable displacement and act early, including in new ways such as forecast-based action.”

Thursday’s event also included three technical panels focusing on each of the policy frameworks, with Climate Centre Director Maarten van Aalst representing the IFRC as moderator of the first to meet online, centred on the Paris Agreement.


Ambassador Miriam Shearman, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, also representing the British presidency of COP 26 in Glasgow, told that session the UK was urging all countries to come forward “as soon as possible ahead of COP 26 with ambitious new climate commitments that will help us meet the [Paris] goals.”

Ms Shearman said the BRACED programme – which included a role in knowledge management for the Climate Centre – and a ten-year project for smallholders to assist them with climate-resilient cultivation were both examples of UK contributions to “adaptation- and resilience-focused climate finance” that helped people avoid disaster displacement.

“We want to ensure that Covid recovery measures both support and enable climate ambition,” Ms Shearman added, “but fundamentally we can’t allow the pandemic to distract us from the task ahead or dampen or enthusiasm.”

Stéphane Crouzat, global Climate Ambassador for the French government, told the panel (through interpretation) that: “In terms of the action agenda, we have to mobilize civil society, mobilize companies, and we do therefore support the efforts of the United Kingdom in the various campaigns to adapt, to mitigate across various fields like the environment and others.”

The anniversary conference’s PDD organizers cautioned that “at a time when current discussions are often framed in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, priorities may have shifted” away from climate action, risk reduction and displacement.

“This changing and evolving context may require new and forward-looking advocacy [for] the actual implementation of existing global commitments and agreements on these issues to make sure that disaster displaced persons are not ‘left behind’.”

A cartoon drawn in real time yesterday illustrating the discussion on the anniversary conference’s Technical Panel 1 on the Paris Agreement, chaired by the Climate Centre. (Joshua James Knowles)