Cover Image
close this bookEnvironmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 28 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
close this folder2. OPENING STATEMENTS
View the document2.1. Statement by Mr. E. Thielmann (ECHO III-Brussels)
View the document2.2. Statement by Dr D. Guha-Sapir (Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels)
close this folder3. OVERVIEW OF POLICY ISSUES
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1. Environment and Sudden Population Displacement: Policy Issues for Humanitarian Action and Development Programmes (D. Guha-Sapir, Université Catholique de Louvain and M. Salih, Institute of Social Studies-The Hague)
View the document3.2. What Makes Emergencies Different? Interrelations of Development, Environment and Disasters (T. Cannon, University of Greenwich-London)
View the document3.3. Environmental Issues: UNHCR’s Experience and Response (R. Thiadens and H. Mori, UNHCR-Geneva)
View the document3.4. Environmental Change in Refugee Affected Areas: Research Needs and Future Directions (R. Black, University of Sussex-Brighton)
close this folder4. CASE STUDIES (SUMMARIES)
View the document4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya (A. Klingshirn and T. Hoerz, GTZ-Eschborn)
View the document4.2. Impact of Humanitarian Crises on Ecosystems (U. Bloesch, Swiss Disaster Relief-Bern)
View the document4.3. Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: Policy and Practice in Emergency Water Supply (P. Sherlock, Oxfam-Oxford)
View the document4.4. Environmental Impact of Refugees in Africa: Some Suggestions for Future Actions (Oweyegha-Afunaduula, University of Makerere-Kampala)
View the document4.5. When Refugees Stream: Environmental and Political Implications of Population Displacement (Shin-wha Lee, Harvard University-Cambridge)
View the document6.1. Principle
close this folder6.2. Time framework and policy parameters
View the documenti. Preparedness Phase
View the documentii. Emergency Phase
View the documentiii. Relief Phase (care and maintenance)
close this folder6.3. Urgent policy concerns
View the documenti. Energy
View the documentii. Shelter
View the documentiii. Agriculture
View the documentiv. Site and size of settlements
View the documentv. Indigenous knowledge
View the documentvi. Research and impact assessment
close this folder6.4 Institutions, resources and technical interventions
View the documenti. Institutional issues
View the documentii. Resource competition concerns
View the documentiii. Technical issues
close this folderANNEXES
View the document1. Selected Bibliography
View the document2. List of Participants
View the document3. Support Staff
View the document4. Programme and Presentations

4.4. Environmental Impact of Refugees in Africa: Some Suggestions for Future Actions (Oweyegha-Afunaduula, University of Makerere-Kampala)

Perceptions of the term «environment» differ from one society to another. For the vast majority of Africans, particularly the very poor, it is a question of survival. In fact it is a development tool. Environment should be viewed as consisting of three dimensions: the ecological/biological; the socio-cultural; and, the socio-economic. All the problems, issues and challenges of environment and development can be assigned to these dimensions.

One of the major problems of environment and development which is also a most glaring indication of environmental and developmental failure in our time is the refugee malaise in Africa. To be a refugee is to experience a particularly degrading form of poverty. A refugee typically lacks economic resources, has been deprived of national identity, and his very right to exist is called into question. There are far more internal refugees than cross-border (external) refugees in Africa. Unfortunately excessive attention has been focused on cross-border refugees at the expense of internal refugees. The issue of the impact of internal refugees on the environment has not received the attention it deserves. Neither has that of large concentrations of cross-border refugees upon rural resources. Yet people forced to move find themselves in complex and intricate environmental linkages that are increasingly threatening to squeeze them out of existence. Perhaps no people in Africa illustrate this better than the Rwandese.

Several factors are responsible for the generation of the environmental refugee malaise in Africa. These include historical and socio-political factors; huge capital-intensive development projects; disasters such as war, drought, famine and earthquakes; desertification; floods; establishment of reserves and national parks; ill-advised economic policies and despotic regimes.

New perceptions, thinking and policies that are people-centred, anticipatory and problem-oriented, and that reflect historical and socio-political realities in Africa are required urgently. The alternative is escalating environmental and developmental crises despite huge inflows of resources to redress them.

In this paper, we examine the environmental refugee malaise in Africa with specific reference to the Rwandese debacle and its impact on the environment. Problems, issues and challenges are identified including ecological stress and political conflicts, and some suggestions for action are given. We conclude that the people of Africa themselves be empowered to deal with the refugee problem with backup assistance from the humanitarian community as a first step towards preventing refugee impacts on the environment.