|Environmentally-Induced Population Displacements and Environmental Impacts Resulting from Mass Migrations (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) / Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR), 1996, 128 p.)|
|Statement of Principles|
|II. Environmental Impacts Resulting from Mass Migrations|
· Integration of Environmental Factors into Assistance Operations
Environmental problems can be caused, and overcome or mitigated, by a variety of decisions and operations undertaken by each organization involved in the assistance operations. Thus, to minimize environmental impacts, it is important to incorporate environmental considerations into all aspects of these assistance operations. This integrated approach has often proven to be among the most cost-effective. Environmental measures should be taken to the point where net benefits are maximized. This principle needs to be incorporated into public policies and programmes.
· Regular Exchange of Programme Lessons
Current knowledge of best practices and projects is not always adequate to ameliorate environmental damage. Follow-up activities of this Symposium should include regular convocations of field practitioners to exchange experience and knowledge. In addition, it would be valuable to develop detailed environmental guidelines so that each specialized organization can have a clear idea of how environmental concerns are to be reflected in their specific operations. These guidelines can be usefully complemented by a compendium of successful projects and best practices.
· Motivation of Displaced Populations
Individual responsibility for environmentally-sensitive behavior must be actively promoted among displaced persons. This can be done in a number of ways, including, among others, the promotion of individual ownership of environmental resources, proper pricing of environmental goods and services, and, to a lesser extent, taxation. Also important will be measures to make those involved feel direct social pressure not to damage the environment. Related measures could include environmental education and awareness campaigns, building upon traditional knowledge.
Many organizations are usually involved in assistance operations. Since environmental problems are related to many aspects of assistance operations, harmonization of approaches to environmental problems among those involved becomes crucial. In particular, there is a need for collaboration between development, humanitarian and environmental agencies. It is desirable for all international organizations and NGOs to develop and implement environmental policies based upon common principles, utilizing existing coordination mechanisms and fora. This is vital in order to enable effective coordination in each relevant situation so that actual field operations of each organization adopt a consistent approach towards minimizing environmental impacts. The policies of the host government dealing with mass population displacements will have an important bearing on actual environmental impacts. Thus the host government needs to also take environmental factors into account when formulating policies concerning these displacements.
Environmental problems can be overcome or arrested to a significant degree if: (i) those otherwise causing problems are properly motivated; (ii) assistance organizations incorporate sustainable development, including environmental concerns, in their operations; (iii) development organizations address the problems in close liaison with assistance organizations; and (iv) the government creates a policy environment which encourages sound environmental management. The governments responsibility for the coordination of environmental action needs to recognized and supported.
· Environmental Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring the status of the environment should be a part of the regular operations of those organizations involved. An effective way to ensure this is to institute monitoring groups which represent the significant organizations in the area. Environmental monitoring is useful to resolve disputes among displaced populations and locals, among others, arising from environmental damage. Practical indicators need to be developed to track progress against the objectives of environmental projects. There is great untapped potential to use geographical information system techniques for collecting, analyzing, and managing information for decision making on land use planning. With a better understanding of baseline (pre-mass migration) conditions, it is easier to identify changes in habitat.