|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.)|
|Extracts of Main Contributions|
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENVIRONMENTALLY-INDUCED POPULATION DISPLACEMENTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS AS A RESULT OF MASS MIGRATION
Points of reflexion
The analysis of migratory movements in relation to natural disasters in Burkina Faso (see Background Paper) have depicted the following characteristics:
- From 1960 onwards, drought was at the origin of population movements from the Mossi Plateau towards other more fertile regions: example of the regions in the south and east of Burkina.
- At the host sites, environmental degradation occurs because of high human concentration and the absence of good hygienic conditions: example of the Kompienga lake;
- The activities undertaken to protect the environment are of two kinds: the traditional method adopted by the populations themselves which is practised in the department of Matiacoali and the modern techniques adopted on the state-controlled sites and which are practised around the Kompienga lake. It should be noted that the rehabilitation of the territory does not take into account the regions where there are no water points or significant national zones and this might render vain the activities as regards environmental protection.
- Finally, it would be appropriate that the political and or development institutions focus their efforts also on the regions where migrants start off not only to make them attractive, but equally to support the population which does not migrate, for in most cases the migrants are above all the men.
If the social environment can be preserved by peace, a global approach to conflicts that provoke massive population movements should be opted for. In general, and drawing the example from the cases studied, population pressure constitutes the major cause of migrations. Migrations should be channelled, that is to say checked by the host countries and aid organizations. The different cases of migration show that it is imperative to avoid big concentrations as is the case of the Rwandans in Zaire. The calamities need to be avoided by the setting up of mediation structures comprising of the civil society actors in the different countries (including NGOs) as was applied successfully in Mali. Transfrontier people need to be guaranteed the freedom to go and return to their territories set aside for economic activity in all the countries involved through the reorganization of communal life based on mutual acceptance and recognition and reciprocal solidarity contracts. Regional integration can also contribute to stabilize the situation of migrants.
A stricter control of international aid is needed to avoid it to assist the wrong people because of the interveners perception of the social environment. The central problem of the relation between migration/environment will still be left unsolved, even where solutions seemed to have been found (Mali, Niger), if a conflict-solving policy is not elaborated taking into account land tenure issues. Not an opportunist policy of power conquest, but a true participatory observation is needed of the evolution of the social structures within the same zone in order to act on time to correct growing unequalities. Therefore, possibilites of population planning and control should be envisaged. In order to avoid the return of people to ancestral land to become another form of social frictions, it is imperative that a reflexion be carried out on the basis of reconciliation/repair adapted to each situation.
The regional dimension of problems
The solutions and internal (national) perspectives are only viable and lasting when they take into account the regional dimension as well as the political and socio-economic context. It is why the return and integration of refugees to their respective countries and regions of origin can only meet permanent solutions in a harmonious context where the free movement of goods and persons in the region is possible. This supposes not only the existence of a security structure which satisfies the interior of national boundaries but also the existence of common security mechanisms for the whole region.
But why the regional dimension and the mechanisms of common security? There are people who do not belong to one state only. The Banyarwanda and the Touareg for example as ethnic groups live in home areas covering several countries. The neglect of their regional/national interests can bring about conflicts which can spread throughout a whole region. Rapid population growth also constitutes a non-negligible source of conflict in countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and generally the whole Great Lakes region. Local populations will probably continue to emigrate, at least temporarily, towards the less populated neighbouring regions or countries. There is a need to regulate and confer a legal aspect to these natural movements.
The much hoped for integration will only be possible if exchanges of goods and services take place freely among the people. A region can be stabilized and secured through the promotion of peace discussions. This can in turn lead to the emergence of sustenable democratic societies. It is high time to set up preventive and conflict-solving mechanisms, and - more precisely - the creation of conflict observatories which can help to identify tension zones within societies and communities. These tensions may have its roots in problems related to land tenure, conflicts between sexes, etnic groups or generations, or the problem of town/countryside. The nature and amplitude of current conflicts need to be analyzed in order to prevent, solve or manage them. The observatories will therefore have to focus on preventive strategies, and the solution and management of conflicts.
One of the important aspects of conflicts management concerns the humanitarian initiatives, i.e. relief activities taken to help the suffering populations hit by natural calamities or man-induced disasters. These activities are often undertaken by foreign organizations who, eventhough they dispose of substantial organisational capacities, still have some clear shortcomings:
- ignorance about the causes of local conflict
- inability to recognize target population
- but above all, the absence of reinforcement strategies of the local abilities to solve problems.
It is for these reasons local humanitarian units should be set up in view of reinforcing the internal abilities through:
a) the training of local NGOs in the domain of reconciliation of humanitarian emergencies
b) the sharing of experiences in this domain between NGOs
c) the analysis of cultural contexts and socio-economic causes leading to emergencies
d) the assistance to local NGOs in oder to help them respond to humanitarian needs not yet taken care of by the international organizations
e) the promotion of NGOs activities and solidarity efforts of the local populations
f) the mobilization of resources on the international and local level.