|The Environmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters - European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 101 p.)|
In humanitarian emergencies involving displacement of people, the environment provides a set of livelihood resources for both the displaced people (Dps) and local people (Lps). The objective is to safeguard that livelihood environment for the benefit of the Lps in the long-term, and for the promotion of development of both Lps and Dps.
Providing basic human needs must be done in a cost effective and environmentally sound way (e.g. milling of food, biodegradable packaging, supply of poles, etc.). This principle necessitates the occlusion of environmental concerns in all emergency programmes for displaced populations. Primary focus therefore should be on safeguarding the livelihood environment for everybody in the refugee affected area, while safeguarding the medium-term sustainability of the ecosystem.
5.1.b. Time framework and policy parameters
i. Preparedness Phase
1. Encourage host governments and humanitarian agencies to include environmental concerns in the selection of sites and sizes of refugee settlements;
2. Establish inter-agency task force (possibly on regional level) to develop environmental policy guidelines for situations of displaced populations;
3. Establish policies for provision of fuel and construction material;
4. Include environmental concerns in handbooks, manuals, training, technical guidelines.
ii. Emergency Phase
1. Rapid assessment of environmental health issues, energy and building material needs;
2. Establish an institutional framework to address environmental concerns on site, including refugees; local populations, host government and agencies e.g. environmental task force;
3. Include energy as separate budget line.
iii. Relief Phase (Care and maintenance)
1. Develop participatory policies to conserve valued ecosystems and to avoid irreversible damages on site e.g. game parks, virgin forests, biodiversity, soils (fertility), watersheds;
2. Develop sustainable systems which ensure adequate energy supply for refugees and local population;
3. Initiate long-term natural rehabilitation measures based on participatory planning of all actors (including local population).
5.1.c. Urgent policy concerns
1. energy needs should be given the same status and priority as other basic needs such as food, water, health and shelter;
2. relevant agencies should have responsibility that fuel needs are met with minimum negative impact on the environment;
3. where appropriate, relevant agencies should evaluate if they are the best organisations to collect, transport and distribute fuel;
4. the emergency team should propose early how fuel needs will be met through the optimum mix of local and other sources;
5. where appropriate, the agencies should engage in replacement planting of vegetation in collaboration with Lps;
6. take measures to reduce need for fuel and manage demand. Possible measures include less energy-demanding foods, milling and preparation, training and store distribution;
7. ensure supplies of blankets and clothes to reduce need for fuel for heating.
Provide suitable structural supports for shelter to minimise cutting of green wood and hence deforestation.
1. to act to encourage host governments as to the positive outcomes of allowing Dps to engage in agriculture and have access to land;
2. to use savings from this (e.g. in reduced needs for food aid) to address environmental protection and promote development benefits to the local people.
iv. Site and size of settlements
· environment aspects must be fully incorporated in site selection and suitability, and suitable methods developed that do not isolate environment from other sectors;
· in regions of high likelihood of crisis that contingency preparation be done for discovery of preferred sites, fragile zones, and to use existing data sources to compile such information;
· an inter-agency co-ordinating body be established to anticipate and predict likely population displacements;
· to incorporate environmental monitoring into the operation of Dps settlements, and enable the monitors to recommend policies for improvement.
v. Indigenous knowledge
To promote indigenous knowledge sharing between local populations, displaced populations and agencies in order to minimise environmental damage and promote long term development
vi. Research and impact assessment
1. integrate environmental concerns in emergency situation;
2. promote monitoring, surveillance and impact (socio-economic and environmental) assessment systems;
3. emphasise and encourage the need for effective and applied research.
5.1.d. Institutions, resources and technical interventions
i. Institutional - related issues
Listing of refugee camps at a very early stage to assist government in selecting sites to assess the possibility and strengthen the capacity for dispersed refugee settlements in local population. Within this perspective there is also:
· lack of policy framework within which institutions can work;
· lack of co-ordination between agencies including weak role definition;
· competition among and within agencies;
· need for (environmental) co-ordinating strategy for planning and needs assessment;
· identification of partners to address above problems (strong policy);
· standardisation of responses among relief agencies to cope with different problems;
· sensitise relief agencies of the risk of standard responses;
· institutional and capacity-building for early warning systems at local and national level to enable them to cope with emergencies when they occur;
· development of mechanisms for early warning and their translation into policy instruments;
· networking to ensure dissemination of early warnings with the aim that such early warnings will be translated in to (preventive) measures;
· awareness building of donors; provision of policy guidelines to promote inter-agency and NGOs co-operation and flexibility.
ii. Resource competition concerns
The minimum requirements top solve the problems of competition between refugees and local populations include:
a) organising participatory mechanisms involving, inter alia, refugees, local population, relief agencies and local authorities. This could be done by providing complementary relief goods to mitigate such competition in order to ensure success in the organisation of participatory mechanisms.
b) Discourage relocation of mass displaced peoples and refugees to unfamiliar environments to enable them: to stay close to their local network to keep in touch with their country
iii. Technical issues
Agencies are not sufficiently equipped with environmental awareness and knowledge capacity building programmes. UNHCR policy and guidelines which are currently under preparation with a view of harmonising relief agencies policy and, as such, facilitate co-ordination on the field, as well as enhancing other agencies environmental awareness should be disseminated.