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close this bookEnvironmental Impact of Sudden Population Displacements - Expert Consultation on Priority Policy Issues and Humanitarian Aid (European Commission Humanitarian Office, 1995, 28 p.)
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View the document1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Open this folder and view contents2. OPENING STATEMENTS
Open this folder and view contents3. OVERVIEW OF POLICY ISSUES
Open this folder and view contents4. CASE STUDIES (SUMMARIES)
Open this folder and view contents6. AN APPEAL FOR URGENT POLICY ATTENTION
Open this folder and view contentsANNEXES


23 - 24 September 1995


On September, 22 -25, 1995 The European Community Humanitarian Office and the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters convened an Expert Consultation in Brussels on “Policy Issues on the Environmental Impact of Displaced Populations During Emergency Phase” to discuss policy parameters dealing with the relationship between environment, relief and population concentrations.

The meeting was convened with the recognition that the present humanitarian intervention, relief and emergency programmes give little to no considerations to the impact of displaced and refugees on the host environment. The total number of displaced persons world-wide is estimated at about 42 million peoples: seventeen million refugees and twenty-five internally displaced persons. Most of these are in the developing countries, with about 4 million in Eastern European states and the former Soviet Union. The environmental impacts of such population concentrations both on settlement and host environment is staggering.

The European Commission has so far this year spent over 500 million ECU (625 million USD) on refugees and internally displaced. Main countries absorbing these funds are Tanzania, Mozambique, Afghanistan, the Former Yugoslavia, and Liberia. Given the environmental impact of displaced populations, the Commission wishes to find approaches in which its emergency relief efforts can lessen the burden on the environment and as such contribute to future sustainable development.

The literature on environmental issues as linked to population displacements during emergencies is scarce and fragmentary. Displacement creates environmental degradation primarily for two reasons:

· sudden concentration of large populations can strain the carrying capacity of the local ecosystem, and exceeds its capacity to absorb waste;

· meeting the needs of displaced and concentrated populations often becomes a complex logistics and technical operation. In this context, environmental management becomes all the more difficult, and takes the back seat.

The environmental impact of mass displacement can be divided into two categories:

· impacts on the immediate human environment (e.g. food shortages, inadequate water supply and sanitation, etc.);

· impacts on the physical and natural environment (e.g. soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, etc.).

An appeal for urgent policy attention

The consultative expert group outlined the following areas of policy concerns which require urgent attention by the international community, multilateral, bi-lateral, national and local organisations; governmental and NGOs. These include

i. giving energy needs the same status and priority as other basic needs such as food, water, health and shelter;

ii. securing shelter through the provision of suitable structural supports for shelter to minimise cutting of greenwood and hence deforestation;

iii. linking sustainable agriculture with refugee programme thus engaging them in agricultural production to address environmental protection and promote development benefits to the local people;

iv. incorporating environment aspects fully in site selection and suitability, and developing suitable methods that do not isolate environment from other sectors;

v. promote indigenous knowledge sharing between local populations, displaced populations and agencies in order to minimise environmental damage and promote long term development;

vi. promote research on environmental impact assessment for monitoring, surveillance and impact (socio-economic and environmental) assessment systems; emphasise and encourage applied research;

vii. develop institutional capacity for camp environment monitoring and to raise environmental awareness for healthy environment and sustainable resource management;

viii. building capacity for agencies not sufficiently equipped with environmental awareness and knowledge with the possibility of dissemination of 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.

2.1. Statement by Mr. E. Thielmann (ECHO III-Brussels)

The European Commission has so far this year spent over 500 million ECU (1 ECU = 1,35 USD) on refugees and internally displaced. Main countries absorbing these funds are Tanzania, Mozambique, Afghanistan, the Former Yugoslavia, and Liberia. Given the environmental impact of displaced populations, the Commission wishes to find approaches in which its emergency relief efforts can lessen the burden on the environment and as such contribute to future sustainable development. In particular, ECHO hopes this consultation will provide practicable preparedness approaches for relief assistance that can be implemented in a more environmentally sound manner. Such approaches must take into consideration that relief often comes in inadequate quantities to meet immediate needs, and that relief is also often delayed in arriving. Furthermore, it is clear that such approaches need to be devised on the realisation that the root causes and solutions are to be found at the community level.

2.2. Statement by Dr D. Guha-Sapir (Université Catholique de Louvain - Brussels)

Donor agencies increasingly recognise the importance of socio-economic and environmental issues in the context of promoting development through relief. With this expert consultation, the European Commission wishes to bring together a small group of experts in technical and socio-economic issues capable of discussing and laying the ground level issues related to the linkages between population displacement, the environment and relief. The purpose of the consultation is to furnish ECHO with policy directions for environmental management in humanitarian aid programmes.

While initially the aim was to develop operational guidelines for field work, following discussions with executing agencies, it was later felt that the policy climate has to be clarified before operational guidelines be developed. Establishing clear priority policy direction for an emergency operations is therefore the first objective of our gathering here.


(Summaries of papers presented)

3.1. 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)

The paper reviewed the policy issues related to the environmental impact of sudden mass displacements as well as of massive aid operations. It recognised that apart from general environmental, inadequate resources use is becoming increasingly a factor creating tensions and conflicts between the displaced and the host populations. By not addressing these issues therefore, the relief community aggravates and contributes to the very process it is trying to solve. The review was limited by the literature which was scarce and fragmentary. Displacement creates environmental degradation primarily for two reasons:

(a) the sudden concentration of large populations can strain the carrying capacity of the local ecosystem and can exceed its capacity to absorb waste;

(b) meeting the needs of displaced and concentrated populations is a complex logistics and technical operation and can encourage action that actively degrade, denude or otherwise pollute the environment.

The environmental impact of mass displacement can be divided into two categories:

· impacts on the immediate human environment (e.g. food shortages, inadequate water supply and sanitation, etc.);

· impacts on the physical and natural environment (e.g. soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, etc.).

The environmental management of population displacements is severely hindered by the limited availability of proven tools such as rapid methods for environmental impact assessments and environmental early warning systems), and how these tools can be integrated in a relief operation in the most effective manner.

The overall objective of introducing environmental impact assessment and other methods of inquiry into areas occupied by refugees and internally displaced peoples is to regulate and hence control the negative impacts of their interventions on the environment. It is also a measure that allows a timely response to potential and unforeseen environmental effects with the aim of regaining the productive and assimilative capacity of the environment. All these together should lead to the sustainability and hence the conservation of the human and physical environments. Without elaborating the issue, we present seven policy perspectives which we hope could be debated, and again, elaborated by the consultative group. These include

· socio-economic incentives versus command and control with regard to environmental protection policies;

· an integrated and inter-sectoral approach to encourage co-operation rather than competition;

· conservation for the improvement of the quality of socio-economic conditions as well as environmental quality;

· institutional and capacity-building for environmental, risk and social assessment;

· planned and voluntary dispersion versus concentration in mega-camps;

· development of energy saving technologies and their inclusion in standard emergency relief packages;

· development of clear policy guidelines within the confines of multilateral and bi-lateral agencies working with refugees and displaced people.

Action in the field for containment of environmental damage and control of potential conflicts between displaced and host populations related to resource use is hardly possible without clear and specific policy directives at the donor levels. Emergency relief is largely financed by international and bilateral agencies and the responsibility of clarifying concepts and priorities, in this case, rests with them. Only on the basis of such policy directives, can field agencies develop operational strategies and technical guidelines. Along with the specific concerns mentioned in this paper, it is critical that such policy should be mindful of the importance of the socio-economic and cultural factors, particularly for environmental matters and the importance of including both host and displaced communities within the policy framework. Such an approach, in our view, would go along way in ensuring a successful implementation.

It is clear, however, that incentives are required for agencies and communities alike in order to enhance their abilities to take care of the environment. This will require analyses of the interaction between the human and physical environments, and the development of methodologies to determine the socio-economic costs of displacement.

3.2. What Makes Emergencies Different? Interrelations of Development, Environment and Disasters (T. Cannon, University of Greenwich-London)

Disasters receive disproportionate attention by the international community. This is a result of media attention, as well as of institutional behaviour. With reference to the latter, in understanding the current governmental/international approach to disasters, it is important to recognise that current institutions define problems in terms of what they can do rather than in terms of what is effectively needed. In the last fifteen years we have seen a fundamental shift away from emergency assistance towards an integration of aid and development. Yet in general, organisations that are dedicated to dealing with humanitarian assistance have a tendency to consider problems as defined by the role expected of them and which they are capable - within given political constraints - of delivering. They are constrained from seeing a broader picture in which emergencies might be a relatively much less significant. With reference to prevention of complex emergencies, why are so few resources allocated to such actions? Part of the answer to this question is that institutions are constrained by diplomacy, and the principle of the nation state. Responses to disasters are therefore opportunity- and capability-driven, rather than needs-driven.

How do we add, therefore, environmental management as part of emergency response, without institutional self-justification? In addition, why is it necessary to specifically recognise the environment as a category to signify problems when dealing with disaster emergencies? In other words, would such money be better spent elsewhere on environmental issues? Is it possible to treat environmental issues within the framework of the ‘normal’ processes and aid efforts that are under way in emergencies, and without significantly adding to costs, or shifting the burden on the environment elsewhere?

Finally, five policy objectives were proposed:

- Assist in removing or reducing the threat that has caused expulsion;

- Provide safe and healthy environment for the duration of the expulsion;

- Deliver and maintain supplies as necessary for the welfare of refugees and minimising animosity of host people;

- Minimise activities by displaced people that have a negative environmental impact;

- Where repatriation is likely to be impossible or to take a long time, the negotiation with prior users for access to environmental resources that minimises conflict with host communities.

3.3. Environmental Issues: UNHCR’s Experience and Response (R. Thiadens and H. Mori, UNHCR-Geneva)

UNHCR is faced with the field realities of population displacements and sought early on to include environmental management into its programmes. Currently, UNHCR is trying to develop guidelines that are both practicable and cost-effective.

A. The policy applies to environmental issues associated with the presence of refugees. Among environmental problems associated with refugee situations, the major ones are: deforestation, soil erosion and depletion and degradation of water, as well as the socio-economic impacts of such problems on refugees and local communities.

Basic environmental policies

Environmental concerns need to be reflected in major activities with its integration implementation of UNHCR’s programmes.

Prevention should be the norm, rather than cure, because the natural environments cannot be recreated or replaced by humanity.

Preventive environmental measures can reduce the total cost of refugee operations making them more cost effective in the long run.

Participation of all concerned (displaced persons including women and children, implementing agencies) is essential to ensure sustainability.

The following organisational principles were presented within the context of the above guidelines: (i) All environment-related action required during the emergency and care-and maintenance phases should be an integrated part of the response of UNHCR and budgeted accordingly under Special or General Programmes as applicable; (ii) The role of actors in addressing environmental concerns specific to refugee situations should be defined according to their relationship to environmental problems linked to refugees, and to the resources they may contribute to developing solutions to those problems; (iii) Since major components of camp operations, such as site selection and layout, are decided at this stage, UNHCR’s operations in the emergency phase must be designed to take environmental factors into account effectively; (iv) Sound environmental management must be introduced and maintained in the care-and-maintenance phase; (v) The environmental damage left by refugees must be repaired, when necessary, in the light of future development plans for the area concerned.

B. To implement the organisational principles outlined above, a number of operational outcomes have been identified:

Emergency phase (i) Integration: e.g. inclusion of environmental concerns in the Handbook for Emergencies; inclusion of an environmental specialist in the emergency team. (ii) Co-ordination: establishment of a working relationship with the environmental authorities in the host government. (iii) Training of emergency team staff in environmental principles of site selection, design and emergency operations. (iv) Creation of an environmental data base, which should provide up-to-date information for emergency planning purposes.

Care-and-maintenance phase: (i) Integration: environmental co-ordinator for situations that have serious impacts on the environment; preparation of an Environmental Strategy and Action Plan. (ii) a local environmental task force for regular co-ordination among major actors concerned; (iii) a section on environment and an environmental clause in the budget submission and in all related project agreements, (iv) promotion of applied research for new technical solutions to environmental problems (v) co-ordination of policy and planning with other UN agencies and donors; (vi) participation of NGOs according to their specific technical capacities and involvement of refugees and local communities in management of environmental projects; (vii) establishment of a staff training programme; (viii) inclusion of environmental data in UNHCR statistical report; promotion of refugee-related environmental information.

Some durable solutions were proposed to mitigate the environmental damage. These were: (i) introduction of a limited environmental rehabilitation scheme and development of an environmental rehabilitation plan to keep a sound co-ordination among all related activities, (ii) Large-scale rehabilitation schemes: preparation of an environmental rehabilitation programme in collaboration with the host government, other UN agencies and donors, where extensive rehabilitation is needed.

The above reflects the increasingly focused UNHCR policy on refugees and environmental issues. It also lays the basis for practical, definite guidelines to give effect to that policy.

3.4. Environmental Change in Refugee Affected Areas: Research Needs and Future Directions (R. Black, University of Sussex-Brighton)

The principal issues raised included: (i) the quality of existing data on environmental indicators; (ii) key issues in determining responses to mass displacement (limits imposed by time constraints and settlement size); and (iii) the validity of current hypotheses (how do we estimate population: resource ratios and regulatory mechanisms). The following conclusions were drawn:

First, on the basis of one or more local case studies, it should be possible to identify both detailed evidence of at least short-term environmental change, and the role of social, economic and organisational factors linked to the presence of refugees and refugee assistance programmes in influencing environmental strategies and sustainability. Specific questions might include whether increased population density resulting from the refugees’ presence has placed excessive pressure on resource management systems, and whether refugees act differently in terms of resource management from local populations, beyond the impact of population density alone;

A second question relates to the longer-term impact of refugees on the environment, and specially the nature of any environmental recovery after refugees return to their home country. Such an analysis is not easy, and would need to be placed in the context of other social, economic, political and environmental processes occurring in the region, especially where the region has been subject to medium-term cycles of environmental or economic change;

A third area of potential research interest concerns the opportunity for a more wide-ranging study of vegetational change in refugee-affected areas bases on analysis of imagery derived from satellite remote sensing or air photographs. Building on climatic, vegetational and other data available through the UNEP/GRID database, it would be possible to establish time series data for a number of individual refugee-affected areas over much of the 1980s.

4.1. Cooking Energy for Refugees: The Cases of Zaire and Kenya (A. Klingshirn and T. Hoerz, GTZ-Eschborn)

The RESCUE programme is an integrated environmental intervention, including stove dissemination, household afforestation, green-belt afforestation, and awareness building and training. The programme started after the emergency or influx phase had ended. It addressed deforestation problems in and around the Somali camps of Hagadera, Dagahaley, and Ifo. The local population in these areas is only about 5,000 to 10,000, or about one local per every ten refugees. Four main problems faced by the displaced were identified as: (i) the displaced peoples had to travel increasing distances for firewood; (ii) as wood became scarce, greenwood was increasingly cut; (iii) sexual violence against women in search of fuelwood became prevalent; (iv) resource related conflicts with the local population erupted.

The main lessons learned from the project were:

· taking a developmental approach in emergencies, and making an appraisal of needs in this light is critical;

· equal treatment needs to be given to camp and local populations;

· the sustainability of afforestation efforts will remain limited as long as the ownership question is not resolved;

· the impact of introducing fabrication of simple technology fuel efficient stoves will remain limited as long as training in the making of these stoves is limited. Introducing simple technology does not mean that simple training is sufficient;

· much fuel is consumed by small scale businesses, but these are rarely considered in fuel saving initiatives.

General recommendations included (i) displaced and local populations consider the environment as a resource base. When planning environmental interventions, we need to focus on the “livelihood environment”; (ii) the factors that determine the “livelihood environment”, intervene prior to the issues of household energy consumption and deforestation. The livelihood environment is determined largely by settlement strategies and the activities that seek to tackle environmental health questions; (iii) the “return situation” has to be part of the planning of all activities from the beginning.

Specific recommendations as related to the emergency phase were as follows: (i) shelter costs wood. This needs to be included in planning relief interventions, through the provision of alternative building materials, warm blankets, etc.; (ii) certain foods require more fuel for preparation than others. In addition to providing fuel cost-efficient foods in relief, milling facilities should be included as a relief item; (iii) mass training in energy saving methods should be implemented early in the emergency phase; (iv) wood cutting areas should be decentralised, then fuel efficient stoves should be provided.

4.2. Impact of Humanitarian Crises on Ecosystems (U. Bloesch, Swiss Disaster Relief-Bern)

Case studies from Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire were presented. The ecosystems in Rwanda and Tanzania have been affected and modified by human activities over centuries. Ecosystems accustomed to intense human activity (such as in the Rwandan and Tanzanian setting) appear to react better to the consequences of population/livestock concentrations, than ecosystems that have been less affected by human activity (e.g. Zaire). The carrying and recovery capacities of various ecosystems is also affected by the duration of population/livestock concentrations. Recovery of affected ecosystems in general, however, will depend on the intactness of humus and the presence of seeds and seedlings in the ground once the period of stress is over.

Intervening factors which determine the carrying and recovery capacity of an affected ecosystem include the fragility of the ecosystem; local topography; local availability of energy sources; availability of pastures; climatic conditions (heavy rainfall that may wash away topsoil); energy needs of refugees; number and type of livestock; number of refugees; length of stay; and rapidity in which an environmental operation is started.

The aim of an environmental operation initiated following population displacements, therefore, should be to safeguard the physical and socio-economic environment, and focus on the local community to ensure long term sustainability.

The main recommendations that can be drawn from the case-studies include:

· where humanitarian crises can be expected, maps indicating areas with fragile ecosystems should be prepared;

· environmental considerations should be included in the very beginning of a crises. It is recommendable to include an environmental expert in the initial assessment team;

· the local population should be involved in planning the use of land from the very beginning. Efforts should be made to ask people how they want to use the land.

4.3. Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: Policy and Practice in Emergency Water Supply (P. Sherlock, Oxfam-Oxford)

There are major funding difficulties for sanitation related projects in the post-emergency phase, emanating from conflicting priorities and limited resources in implementing emergency related projects (how can you harmonise the need to save lives through adequate water and sanitation projects, and ensure that you do not cause long term damage to the environment.

Relief attracts people who may cause environmental degradation enhanced by lack of a co-ordinated inter-agency response during mass displacement crises.

Several suggestions could be put for the way forward, including:

Programme integration: in order to appreciate the overall impact of an emergency programme on the environment, planning, monitoring and evaluation of the various programme elements have to be brought together. Were there are many different agencies involved in the same programme, effective consideration of environmental impact demands strong co-ordination and a willingness on the part of the agencies to accept the role of co-ordinating bodies.

Information, preparedness and consultation: good information already exists in and about many places which are (potentially) subject to large population influxes, in the form of satellite images, aerial photographs, maps, ground surveys and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), etc.. As the data are held by a variety of bodies (government ministries, universities, local development projects, companies, NGOs and defence forces), it is often time consuming and difficult to access and assemble the relevant data when emergencies occur. Desk studies could be made on areas where population movements are likely to occur, so that a basic understanding is developed before the emergency occurs, and for short term decisions with better long term environmental consequences. This could be done by a co-ordinating body such as UNHCR or a consortium of agencies, which could then make the relevant information available to implementing bodies when needed.

Agreed procedures and minimum standards: monitoring and evaluation of programmes should take into account their negative environmental impact. This needs programme objectives and evaluation criteria to be broadened. Environmental monitoring should begin as close to the start of an emergency as is practical, and should be reported on regularly. More effective programme planning, monitoring and evaluation does demand clearer criteria for measurement, and a commitment to provide the resources needed.

More realistic planning horizons: it is generally true that temporary settlements of refugees and displaced people have lifetimes spanning years rather than months. Oxfam’s response in water supply and environmental sanitation tends to use equipment which may last for many years and to engage the communities involved in a way that produces sustainable management of the infrastructure installed.

Better site selection: the environmental impact of displaced people depends crucially on the location and size of the settlements. Dispersed settlements, whilst being more difficult to service in some cases, provide more healthy places for people to live in and have less negative impact on natural resources nearby.

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.

4.5. When Refugees Stream: Environmental and Political Implications of Population Displacement (Shin-wha Lee, Harvard University-Cambridge)

As refugee flows and other forms of forced migration take place with unprecedented magnitude and speed, displaced people utilise the meagre resources available in their resettlement zones, and this frequently creates tensions between newcomers and local populations. This presentation aims at examining environmental and political problems related to the displacement of peoples with special emphasis on Bangladesh and Sudan.

The first aim was to examine environmental impact of sudden massive refugee influxes and long-term residency of displaced populations in receiving areas. Secondly the presentation discussed the political implications of refugee flows. Finally, the cases of Bangladesh and Sudan are examined to see whether the interrelations of population displacement, environmental change, and political insecurity specified in the first two theoretical sections are supported by real-world observation.

The concluding section suggested how affected States, international community, and relief agencies can minimise refugee-related environmental and political disruptions, particularly by coping well with emergency relief phase. There are three prerequisite for a timely, effective, and yet sustainable response to a refugee crisis cited were preparatory planning, immediate relief, and sustainable relief. These three phases should not be considered in isolation but within an integrated system.


The consultative experts were divided into three groups which discussed problem areas with regard to the environmental consequences of mass displacement and policy solutions. The discussions drew from the policy papers presented in the plenary sessions that covered both general policy issues from international and national perspectives and specific case studies from the field. The following is the summary of these discussions:

· Risk factors for negative environmental impact of relief and mass displacement need to be researched before policy can be developed;

· Comparative efficacy of a cross-sectoral approach or an independent approach to environmental problems in emergency situations should be examined;

· Environmental responses in emergencies are characterised by high pressure and short-term planning which detract from their effectiveness;

· Political and security constraints are frequently determinant in what can or cannot be applied for environmental protection;

· Emergency response to environmental impacts tends to fragmented and therefore less effective;

· Environmental impact assessment and monitoring systems for emergencies are generally very poorly developed. There is a lack of applicable measurement/observational methodologies for rapid impact assessment;

· When there are urgent environmental programmes, local authorities and population are often ignored;

· Immediate attention should be paid to provide complementary relief goods to mitigate conflicts over resources;

· Relief supplies should be environmentally friendly and procurement policies need to be reviewed in this direction;

· The number of operating agencies in an area should be limited to contain environmental damage;

· Assessments should be conducted keeping in mind the priorities of the local people;

· Environment element should be present in every part of the emergency response.

6.1. Principle

In humanitarian emergencies involving displacement of people, the environment provides a set of livelihood resources for both the displaced people and local people. The objective is to safeguard that livelihood environment for the benefit of the local populations in the long-term, and for the promotion of development of both local populations and displaced populations. Providing basic human needs must be done in a cost effective and environmentally sound way (e.g. milling of food, bio-degradable packaging, supply of poles, etc.). This principle necessitates the inclusion 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.

i. Preparedness Phase

- Encourage host governments and humanitarian agencies to include environmental concerns in the selection of sites and sizes of refugee settlements;

- Establish inter-agency task force (possibly on regional level) to develop environmental policy guidelines for situations of displaced populations;

- Establish policies for sourcing of fuel and construction material;

- Include environmental concerns in handbooks, manuals, training, technical guidelines.

ii. Emergency Phase

- Rapid assessment of environmental health issues, energy and building material needs;

- Establish an institutional framework to address environmental concerns on site, including refugees; local populations, host government and agencies e.g. environmental task force;

- Include energy as separate budget line.

iii. Relief Phase (care and maintenance)

- Develop participatory policies to conserve valued ecosystems and to avoid irreversible damages on site e.g. game parks, virgin forests, biodiversity, soils (fertility), watersheds;

- Develop sustainable systems which ensure adequate energy supply for refugees and local population;

- Initiate long-term natural rehabilitation measures based on participatory planning of all actors (including local population).

i. Energy

- Energy needs should be given the same status and priority as other basic needs such as food, water, health and shelter;

- Relevant agencies should have responsibility that fuel needs are met with minimum negative impact on the environment; take measures to reduce need for fuel and manage demand. Possible measures include less energy-demanding foods, milling and preparation, training and store distribution; ensure supplies of blankets and clothes to reduce need for fuel for heating;

- Where appropriate, relevant agencies should evaluate if they are the best organisations to collect, transport and distribute fuel;

- The emergency team should propose early how fuel needs will be met through the optimum mix of local and other sources;

- Where appropriate, the agencies should engage in replacement planting of vegetation in collaboration with local populations.

ii. Shelter

Provide suitable structural supports for shelter to minimise cutting of greenwood and hence deforestation.

iii. Agriculture

- To act to encourage host governments as to the positive outcomes of allowing displaced populations to engage in agriculture and have access to land;

- 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 displaced populations 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

- Integrate environmental concerns in emergency situation;

- Promote monitoring, surveillance and impact (socio-economic and environmental) assessment systems;

- Improve quality and quantity of applied research.

i. Institutional 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, the following weaknesses were underlined:

- Lack of policy framework within which institutions can work;

- Lack of co-ordination between agencies partly due to weak role definition;

- Need to reduce competition among and within agencies;

- Need for (environmental) co-ordinating strategy for planning and needs assessment;

- Standardisation of responses among relief agencies to cope with different problems;

- Sensibilisation of relief agencies of the environmental risks of standard responses;

- Institutional and capacity-building for early warning systems for environmental damage at local and national level;

- Mechanisms to translate warnings into preventive measures;

- Awareness building of donors.

ii. Resource competition concerns

- The minimum requirements to reduce problems related to resource related conflict between refugees and local populations include:

· 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;

· 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 to harmonise relief agencies policy and facilitate co-ordination on the field should be disseminated.

1. Selected Bibliography

Report to UNDP-GEF: The demand for wood from the Parc National des Virunga by refugees in the Goma complex of camps in eastern Zaire.

The Almeria statement on desertification and migration, Declaration adopted at the International Symposium on Desertification and Migrations, 11 February 1994.

Ahmed A.M. Human and ecological consequences of war in the Sudan, in: T. Tvedt (ed.). Conflicts in the Horn of Africa: human and ecological consequences of warfare. Uppsala: Uppsala University Press, 1993.

Allan N. Impact of Afghan refugees on the vegetation resources of Pakistan’s Hinukush-Himalaya. Washington: Mountain Research & Development, 1987; vol. 7/3.

Babu S.C. & Healy R. Refugees and environmental policies. Washington: International Food Policy Group, 1992.

Balck P. Environmental impact analysis. New-York: Praeger Publishers, 1981.

Bergdall T.D. Methods for active participation - Experiences in rural development from East and Central Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Biswas A.K. & Agarwala S.B.C. Environmental impact assessment for developing countries. Oxford: Butterworth, 1992.

Biswas A.K. & Tortajada C. Rwandan refugees in Zaire: environmental impacts of a human disaster. Development and Cooperation, 1995, 2: pp.18-19

Biswas A.K. & Tortajada C. Rwandan refugees and the environment in Zaire. Ecodecison, 1995, 3: pp.73-75

Biswas A.K. & Tortajada Quiroz C. Environmental impacts of the Rwandan refugees, Report submitted to Office of Project Services, New-York: United Nations Development Programme, 1994.

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Carew-Reid J. Strategies for sustainable development: A handbook for their planning and implementation. London: IUCN/Earthscan-IIED, 1995.

Cernea M. Socio-economic and cultural approaches to involuntary population resettlement. Washington: Guidelines on Lake Management, 1991; vol. 2: pp.177-188.

Cernea M. Bridging the research divide: studying refugees and development oustees. Washington: World Bank Doc., 1994.

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Cernea M. Understanding and preventing impoverishment from displacement - Reflections on the state of knowledge, International Conference on Development Induced Displacement Impoverishment. Oxford: University of Oxford, 1995.

Cernea M. Intation sociale et dacements de populations: la contribution des sciences sociales. Revue Internationale des Sciences Sociales, 1995; n°143: pp.107-131.

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Chambers R. Challenging the professions: Frontier for rural development. London: Intermediate Technology Publ., 1993.

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Gilpin A. Environmental impact assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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Green R.H. Making whole again: Human development consequences of hosting refugees in Kagera region, Tanzania, ESRC Development Economic Study Group Annual Conference. Leicester: University of Leicester, 1995.

Gurmann S. Refugees and the environment. Geneva: UNHCR Discussion Paper, n°2, 1991.

Hjort A. & Salih M. Ecology and politics: Environmental stress and security in Africa. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1989.

Hoerz T. The environment of refugee camps: a challenge for refugees, local populations and aid agencies. Refugee Participation Network, 1995; n°18: p.17-19.

Hoerz T. Reducing environmental stress in refugee affected areas: a multi-level strategy. Oxford: Refugee Studies Programme, 1995.

Hosier R. Energy development and environment in Africa: Energy use books on Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1985.

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Ketel H. Tanzania: Environmental assessment report of the Rwandese refugee camps and the affected local communities in Kagera region, 2-30 June 1994. Geneva: UNHCR Doc. PTSS Mission Report 94/62N, 1994.

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2. List of Participants

BLACK, Richard
Lecturer in Human Geography
School of African and Asian Studies
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN
United Kingdom
Tel: (44) 1273-606 755 (x 2264)
Fax: (44) 1273-623 572

Forestry engineer
Swiss Foreign Office
Division Humanitarian Aid and Swiss Disaster Relief
Abteilung HH/SKH
Eigerstrasse 71
CH-3003 Bern Switzerland
Tel: (41) 31-322 3517 or 32-233 785 (Pr)
Fax: (41) 31-371 8334

Reader in Third World Development Studies
School of Humanities
University of Greenwich
Woolwich Campus
Wellington Street
London SE18 6PF
United Kingdom
Tel: (44) 181-331 8944 or 8804
Fax: (44) 181-331 8805 or 171-254 3950 (Pr.)

CONTI, Riccardo
Head Water and Sanitation Department
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Water and Sanitation Department
Av. de la Paix, 19
CH-1202 Geneva
Tel: (41) 22-730 2352
Fax: (41) 22-733 9674

DELOGNE, Martine
European Commission
DG I/Environment
200 Rue de la Loi
1049 Brussels
Tel: (32) 2-296 99 57

Horn of Africa Desk
European Commission
European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO I)
200 Rue de la Loi
1049 Brussels

GUHA-SAPIR, Debarati
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Universitatholique de Louvain
Ecole de Santublique
Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs 30-34
1200 Brussels- Belgium
Tel: (32) 2-764 33 26
Fax: (32) 2-764 34 41

HANSCH, Steven
Senior Program Officer
Refugee Policy Group (RPG)
1424 16th Street N.W. # 401
Washington DC 20036
Tel: (1-202) 387 3015
Fax: (1-202) 667 5034 or 462 4051 (Pr.)

Consultant Water Supply and Sanitation
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Catholic University of Louvain
Ecole de Santublique
Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs 30-34
1200 Brussels- Belgium
Tel: (32) 2-299 44 55
Fax: (32)2-295 45 51

HOERZ, Thomas
Visiting Study Fellow
Refugee Studies Programme
Queen Elizabeth House
University of Oxford
21 St Giles
Oxford 0X1 3LA
United Kingdom
Tel: (44) 1865-270 722
Fax: (44) 1865-270 721
Residence: c/o GTZ-PAS
PO Box 41607-Nairobi
Tel. (254) 2 568 968

KETEL, Hermen J.
Environmental Consultant
Ketel S.A.R.L.
Sustainable Development Advice
St Pierre
26340 Aurel
Tel: (33)75-217 458
Fax: (33) 75-217 228

Uppsala University
Department of Economic History
Box 513
75120 Uppsala
Tel: (44) 181-7401957 (Pr.)
Residence: 46 Larden Road
London W3 7SU

Deutshe Gezellschaft fhnische
Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)
Household energy programme
DAG Hammarskjeg 1-5
Postfach 5180
D-65760 Eschborn
Tel: (49)61-96 79 3007
Fax: (49) 61-96 79 7325

Junior Professional Officer
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Human Health, Welfare and Settlement Unit
P.O Box 30552
Tel: (254) 2-623 470
Fax: (254) 2-623 846

Oxford Brooks University
Centre for the Science of Food and Nutrition
Gipsy Lane
Oxford 0X3 OBP
United Kingdom
Tel: (44) 1865 483 818
Fax: (44) 1865 484 017

MORI, Hideyuki
Senior Coordinator on Environmental Affairs Unit
United Nations High Commissionner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
Gen Dt
Tel: (41)22-739 8668
Fax: (41)22-739 7327

Lecturer in Environmental Management
Faculty of Social Science
University of Makerere
PO Box 7062
Tel: (256) 41-531 499
Fax: (256)41-530 412

ROY, Regine
European Commission
DG I/Environment
200 Rue de la Loi
1049 Brussels
Tel: (32)2-2968818

SALIH, Mohamed
Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies
Institute of Social Studies
Postbox 29766
2502 LT
The Hague,
Tel: (31) 70-4260460
Fax: (31) 70-4260799

274 Banbury Road
0X2 7DZ
United Kingdom
Tel: (44) 1865-311 311
Fax: (44) 1865-312800

Centre for International Affairs (CFIA)
Harvard University 404B
1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge MA 02138
Tel: (617) 495 0775 or 322 8004
Fax: (617) 496-8562 or 495-8292

Senior Agricultural Planning Officer
United Nations High Commissionner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
Gen dt
Tel: (41) 22-739 8473
Fax: (41) 22-739 7371

Head of Unit, Logistics and Disaster Preparedness
European Community Humanitarian Office/ECHO 3
Rue de Gen 3
1140 Brussels
Tel: (32) 2-296 46 15
Fax: (32) 2-295 45 51

International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Office of Brussels
Rue Belliard 65
1040 Brussels
Tel: (32) 2-230 6055
Fax: (32) 2-230 0763

IOM Chief of Mission in Brussels
International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Office of Brussels
Rue Belliard 65
1040 Brussels
Tel: (32) 2-230 6055
Fax: (32) 2-230 0763

3. Support Staff

Workshop Organisation, Secretariat and Report:
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Tel. (32)-2 764 3327 or 764 3823
Fax. (32)-2 764 3441

Below, Rna
d’Aoust, Edouard
Forcella, Emanuela
Keymeulen, Fabienne
Misson, Claudine
Nyheim, David

4. Programme and Presentations

SATURDAY, 23 September, 1995


Breakfast, coffee, registration


Welcome and Opening statements: meeting aims and context

- Mr E. Thielmann, ECHO 3 - European Union, Brussels, Belgium

- Ms D. Sapir, CRED-UCL, Brussels, Belgium


Plenary discussion based on short presentations

Chair: Mr M. Salih, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands

- Overview of policy issues (Mr M. Salih, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands and Ms D. Guha-Sapir, CRED-UCL, Brussels, Belgium)

- What makes emergencies different? Interrelations of development, environment and disasters (Mr T. Cannon, University of Greenwich, UK)

- Environmental issues: UNHCR’s Experience and Response (Mr R. Thiadens and Mr H. Mori, UNHCR, Switzerland)


Coffee break



- Cooking energy for refugees: The case of Zaire and Kenya (Ms A. Klingshirn, GTZ - Germany)

- Environmental causes and consequences of population displacement: Evidence from the cases of Bangladesh and Sudan (Ms Shin-wha Lee, Harvard University, USA)




Working group discussion on: Priority Issues for Environmental Management in Mass Displacements: Policy Areas for Urgent Attention

- Group 1: Chair: Mr T. Cannon, University of Greenwich, UK

Rapp.: Mr S. Hansch, RPG, Washington, USA

- Group 2: Chair: H. Mori, UNHCR, Switzerland

Rapp.: Mr T. Hoerz, GTZ-Rescue

- Group 3: Chair: Mr H. Ketel, Aurel, France

Rapp.: Mr C. Lambrechts, UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya


Coffee Break and preparation for plenary reporting


Plenary session: reporting and discussion of working group reports


Invited dinner at Chateau de Genval

SUNDAY, 24 September, 1995


Plenary discussion based on short presentations

Chair: Ms D. Guha-Sapir (CRED-UCL, Brussels)

- Impact of Humanitarian Crisis on Ecosystems (Mr U. Bloesch, Swiss Co-operation, Bern, Switzerland)

- Environmental change in refugee affected areas: Research needs and Future directions (Mr R. Black, King’s College, University of London, UK)


Coffee break


Plenary discussion based on short presentations (continued)

- Environmental Health and Environmental Impact: policy and practice in emergency water supply and sanitation (Mr P. Sherlock, OXFAM, UK)

- The Environmental Impact of Refugees in Africa: Suggestions for Future Actions (Mr Oweyegha-Afunaduula, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda)


Lunch and preparation of working group chairs and rapporteurs


Working Group discussion on Policy options for donor and implementing agencies:

Proposed directions for the future

- Group 1: Chair: Mr T. Cannon, University of Greenwich, UK

Rapp.: Mr S. Hansch, RPG, Washington, USA

- Group 2: Chair: Mr. R. Thiadens, UNHCR, Switzerland

Rapp.: Mr T. Hoerz, GTZ-Rescue

- Group 3: Chair: Mr H. Ketel, Aurel, France

Rapp.: Mr C. Lambrechts, UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya


Plenary session

Presentation of working group report

Conclusions and recommendations

For more information:

· ECHO - information
Rue de la Loi 200
1049 Brussels - Belgium
T (32) 2 295 44 00
Fax: (32) 2 295 45 72

Universitatholique de Louvain
School of Public Health
Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs 30-34
1200 Brussels - Belgium
T (32) 2 764 38 23
Fax: (32) 2 764 34 41